Xanthophobia: Symptoms, Causes And Treatments

The xantofobia is an irrational fear and sickly to the yellow color that a human being can suffer. A person with this phobia can go to the extreme of feeling fear or fear of both the color yellow and the word yellow itself. 

The word xanthophobia comes from the Greek xanthous which means “yellow” and from phobos which means “fear”. Some of the things that a person with this phobia may be afraid of are: the sun , yellow flowers, yellow cars, yellow fruits or, ultimately, any other living being or object that is of this color .


As in all cases of phobias, this fear begins to be harmful to the person when it limits him to do what he wants. This is where you should ask a healthcare professional for help.

The person who suffers from a phobia cannot control the fear and requires treatment to overcome it. Since the phobia controls the sufferer, this can significantly affect your life. And since any living being, object, situations, and even thoughts can trigger a phobia, there are hundreds of them.

Causes of xanthophobia

Possible traumatic experiences

As with other specific phobias, xanthophobia develop from some traumatic experience in the person’s past. This traumatic event, probably linked to childhood, ended up being an irrational and exaggerated fear generator.

Cultural motives

The color yellow is associated in many cultures with bad luck or even death, so social identity has a fairly close relationship in this phobia.  In fact, the starting point of the phobia is usually the association of this color with illness, bad luck, or even death.

The origin of the belief that yellow is bad luck is believed to date back to the 17th century. Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known as Molière, died while performing “The Imaginary Sick” on February 17, 1673, dressed in yellow.

Before this event, yellow had had a good social acceptance, since it was related to gold or its representation of the sun, of light. Since Molière’s death, all this has changed and bad luck appears linked to the color yellow, sometimes in a generic way, but very especially in the world of the scene.  

Another anecdote is that the actors are strictly forbidden to go on stage wearing a yellow garment because it brings bad luck.


Another cause may simply be that a child learned to mimic other people’s negative responses to fear.

As in many other phobias, irrational fear can be a fear learned from a role model person they have had in their childhood. This is called vicarious learning.


The person affected by xanthophobia can suffer from serious anxiety disorders that occur together with a great emotional disturbance, which can greatly affect their quality of life, limiting them considerably.

Next, I will go on to describe some of the many symptoms that someone affected by this phobia can suffer when exposed to the word or the color yellow:

  • Panic or fear : it is an intense fear or terror. As a symptom, it is usually an unreasonable fear, often accompanied by the belief that “something bad is going to happen” when faced with the feared stimulus, in this case, the color yellow. A common symptom is the “desire to flee,” which is the normal human response to leave or fight the situation. This is related to the production of the hormone adrenaline by the body in response to fear.
  • Anxiety – Anxiety is the experience of worrying, fearful, or feeling uneasy. Feeling of mild to moderate or occasional anxiety is a normal reaction to the stresses of daily life. Anxiety can manifest itself in a person’s mood, thoughts, and emotions.
  • Chills .
  • Dry mouth .
  • Nausea .
  • Breathing difficulties .
  • Rapid heartbeat .
  • Severe hallucinations .


In case of suffering from any phobia, it is necessary for the person to go to a health professional to begin effective treatment and be able to overcome it or lead a life with the fewest possible limitations.

In the treatment of xanthophobia there are several psychological therapies that can be effective to overcome it. Next, I will go on to detail some of the most effective treatments:

-Cognitive-behavioral therapy 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is quite effective in overcoming specific phobias. The techniques used in this type of therapy for phobias are:

Exposure therapy

It is the most effective behavioral treatment to deal with the behaviors of anxiety produced by phobias. It is based on the exposure of the person with phobia to the feared stimulus, in this case to the color or the word yellow. The key is to prevent the escape route from becoming a safety sign.

Exposure interrupts the chain of flight behaviors and allows coping with psychophysiological and cognitive symptoms produced by anxiety. These symptoms will diminish the longer the subject is exposed to yellow.

Systematic desensitization therapy

With this technique, the patient can learn to face feared stimuli and situations that are threatening, exposing themselves in a real or imaginary way to stimuli that produce anxiety.

With this exposure, the subject learns to relax and once the anxiety is controlled through imagination, the feared object will be desensitized live.

Some of the cognitive techniques that are often used to treat specific phobias are the following:

  • Distraction : consists of stopping negative thoughts and their subsequent change by positive thoughts.
  • Decatastrophization : it is the change of negative thoughts, verification of evidence that cancels these thoughts and search for solutions.
  • Stress Inoculation : It consists of three phases -educational, trial and implementation- and was designed by Donald Meichenbaum to reduce stress.
  • Identification of personal assumptions : The therapist usually uses what in psychology is called the descending arrow, to detect the meanings associated with negative anticipations (eg “I’m afraid of the color yellow” – And what would happen if you encounter a yellow object? – “I feel short of breath and feel short of breath”). Sometimes it is useful to investigate the origin of these phobic meanings so that the patient gains self-understanding and motivation to change.
  • Relaxation techniques : deep breathing and visualization are effective.

-NLP Techniques (Neurolinguistic Programming)

This technique helps us to visualize, go back and correct the problems that we develop in fears and phobias.

It is not about hiding problems, but about facing them in a more useful way by learning a more appropriate line of confrontation. If you have been able to create something as complicated as phobias and fears, you can learn to use those abilities to carry out different behaviors.

-Ontological coaching

It is a method of transformation through which people review, develop and optimize their modes of behavior that they carry out in the world.


With hypnotic regression, the first manifestation of fear can be located in the subconscious of the subject, locating the situation, the reason … On this you can work through hypnosis, which allows associating these manifestations with other positive ones that make the irrational fear of that object is reduced and even disappears.

Thanks to hypnosis, the negative associations that make the subject suffering from phobia continue with that irrational and exaggerated fear are broken. At the end of the hypnosis process, the subject has total control and mastery of the situation.


In case they are considered by the health professional as necessary due to the intensity of the problem and the disorder it causes in their daily life, they may resort to psychiatric treatment with drugs.

This pharmacological treatment will help to cope with the physiological symptoms related to anxiety, which can appear due to psychological techniques such as exposure or systematic desensitization.

It will always be necessary to combine this drug treatment with psychological therapy, since drug treatment alone does not cure the phobia. It helps to remit or decrease the physiological symptoms of the therapy, but it is not completely eliminated.

The most widely used drugs for the treatment of specific phobias such as xanthophobia are antidepressants and anxiolytics.


In addition, there are some behaviors that can help reduce the anxiety generated:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Sleep well
  • Reduce or avoid caffeine and theine consumption
  • Avoid taking medicines that can be bought without a prescription

-Objectives of therapy

Finally, I would like to explain the objectives that are tried to be achieved in a therapy aimed at facing xanthophobia, so that, in case this is your case, you can see that there is a solution to your problem:

  • Get the subject to stop experiencing anxiety about any object or living being of yellow color or the word yellow itself and get exposed to the situation without avoiding it.
  • Get the subject to modify their anticipatory cognitions regarding yellow. This leads the subject to change his catastrophic and negative thoughts about the color yellow for other realistic ones.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, Va: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013.
  2. Hamm AO. Specific phobias. Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2009; 32: 577–591.
  3. Taylor CT, Pollack MH, LeBeau RT, Simon NM. Anxiety disorders: Panic, social anxiety, and generalized anxiety. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, et al., Eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2008: chap 32.

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