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Case Report ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychiatry | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00590

Fear of Ghosts: A Distinct but Poorly Recognized Specific Phobia with an Adverse Impact on Daily Living

  • 1Instituto D'Or de Pesquisa e Ensino (IDOR), Brazil

The psychological and psychiatric literature has seldom appreciated that fears of ghosts and kindred supernatural worries may be a cause of intense discomfort, poor sleep, and socio-occupational impairment. This claim is illustrated by the clinical features of six patients who developed intense anxiety when they had to sleep alone at night. The fears were first noticed in childhood and persisted into adolescence and adulthood. At these times, they were overwhelmed by images of ghosts and haunted houses often experiencing a vivid impression that an immaterial being not perceivable by the ordinary senses was hovering around. Comorbidity with other phobias was the rule-. Owing to shame and self-consciousness, the fears were seldom if ever discussed with healthcare professionals. The overall clinical and psychopathological picture was consistent with a diagnosis of a specific phobia. In at least a few cases, response to pharmacological treatment and cognitive-behavioral intervention has alleviated the symptoms. “Phobia of the supernatural” may be more common than usually thought. It must actively be sought for in patients complaining of poor sleep and daytime somnolence, and in patients with other types of phobia. Systematic studies must be carried out to settle the neurobiological correlates of phobia of the supernatural as well as the possible benefit of different modalities of pharmacological and psychological treatment.

Keywords: simple phobias, insomnia, sleep disorder, Ghosts and phantoms, fear of ghosts

Received: 06 Sep 2018; Accepted: 25 Oct 2018.

Edited by:

Andrea Fagiolini, Università degli Studi di Siena, Italy

Reviewed by:

Umberto Albert, Università degli Studi di Bologna, Italy
Giuseppe Maina, Ospedale San Luigi Gonzaga, Italy  

Copyright: © 2018 de Oliveira-Souza. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Ricardo de Oliveira-Souza, Instituto D'Or de Pesquisa e Ensino (IDOR), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, rdeoliveira@gmail.com