What Is Leukophobia?


A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder, which is one of the most prevalent mental disorders, characterised by an overwhelming and unreasonable fear of an object, situation, animal, feeling, or place(reference here). They are quite common (more specific, perhaps a % with a reference). Indeed, it is almost sure that you have heard about some of them such as claustrophobia, arachnophobia, or social phobia. However, these are just the most common phobias. There are hundreds of named phobias and many of them are rarely known.1 For instance, have you ever heard of leukophobia? Leukophobia is a type of specific phobia that can be defined as an irrational fear of the colour white (reference). If you want to learn more about this rare phobia, keep reading!

Causes of leukophobia

As with any phobia, leukophobia can mainly be triggered by:

  • A particular incident or trauma that is in some way related to the colour white
  • Learning early in life to be afraid of white from, for example, a close relative

Genetics can also play a role in the development of leukophobia. This is due to the fact that studies have shown that some people are born with a higher tendency to be anxious than others.


First of all, for being diagnosed with leukophobia, it is key that the patient suffers from an unreasonable fear and clinically significant distress or impairment associated with the colour white.5 Apart from paying attention to this, while making a diagnosis, mental health professionals are also focused on determining what risk factor patients may have (e.g. traumas), taking medical, mental health, and social history, finding more about the symptoms of the patient, and talking about the impact that the fear is having on the patient’s life and asking about what things are they avoiding because of it (e.g. not going into new places to ensure that you will not find anything white).2

Signs and symptoms of leukophobia

The main symptom associated with leukophobia is an unreasonable and intense fear, anxiety or panic that cannot be controlled when the person is exposed to or even just thinks or speaks about the colour white.3 In this way, symptoms of leukophobia (as of any phobia) include different anxiety symptoms such as: 

  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Nausea and feeling like throwing up
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath and trouble breathing
  • Shaking
  • Upset stomach and tight chest

Management and treatment for leukophobia

Many people suffering from leukophobia and from phobia disorders in general refuse to seek professional help even though there are many effective treatments, which is probably one of the factors that explains that they persist for several decades in 10-30% of cases.5 One of the main reasons that may explain this is that they are not aware of the available treatments or/and perceive phobias as untreatable. The most recommended approach and the first-line treatment for specific phobias such as leukophobia is a type of therapy known as exposure therapy. 

However, 25% of people suffering from phobias refuse exposure-based treatment as they do not want to face the feared stimulus. Exposure therapy is a modality of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).6 The main goal of this type of therapy is to change the reaction of the patient to, in the case of leukophobia, the colour white. To do this, patients are exposed gradually and repeatedly to the feared stimulus to help them manage their anxiety.2 Exposure therapy has extensively been studied as a treatment for arachnophobia, ophidiophobia (phobia to snakes) and others. There are different types of exposure therapy, being the main ones the following:

  • In vivo exposure
  • Systematic desensitisation: patients are taught to relax their voluntary muscles during imaginal confrontation with what they fear. The main components of this type of exposure therapy are:
    • Training in progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)
    • Desensitisation through repeated imaginal confrontations in a gradual manner
    • Elaborating a fear hierarchy
  • Modern imaginal exposure: this type of exposure is based on asking the patient to imagine a confrontation with the feared stimulus. In contrast with systematic desensitisation, modern imaginal exposure is usually not focused on relaxation
  • Virtual exposure: patients confront computer-generated representations of the phobic target. The two main approaches are computer-aided vicarious and virtual reality exposure

Apart from psychological treatments like the previous ones, medicines can also be useful for treating phobias such as leukophobia. These include:

  • Beta blockers (e.g. propranolol): these drugs have minimal effects on cognition and can be used to minimise the symptoms of anxiety.7 Beta blockers do this by blocking the effects of adrenaline, which increases heart rate and blood pressure and triggers shaking voice and limbs2
  • Sedatives (e.g. benzodiazepines): sedatives are also used to reduce anxiety symptoms. The problem with these is that their administration has to be extremely controlled as they can be addictive2


How can I prevent leukophobia?

There is not a specific way of preventing the development of leukophobia. However, if you suffer from leukophobia, it can be possible to prevent your children from developing it by getting help. This is because, as mentioned, phobias can be learned and, if you get help early, it is possible to avoid your children for learning to be afraid of the colour white. 

How common is leukophobia?

Luekophobia is pretty rare. However, there is no exact data of how common it is. Maybe because it is too uncommon for determining its prevalence.

Who is at risk of leukophobia?

As mentioned, someone with a close relative that suffers from leukophobia are at a higher risk of developing this phobia. First of all, because they can learn the behaviour of being afraid of white from this relative, and secondly, because, as stated above, genetics also play a role in the development of phobias. Furthermore, someone with a trauma that is in some way related to the colour white (e.g. being sexually assaulted by a person in white clothes) will also be at a higher risk. 

What can I expect if I have leukophobia?

The main thing you can expect is to have an unreasonable fear of the colour white that you cannot control and to suffer from anxiety symptoms. After seeking help, you will be asked many questions about your phobia and about your mental health to determine the origin and cause of your fear and see which is the best way to treat your fear.

When should I see a doctor?

If you are experiencing an unreasonable fear of white or anything in general and experiencing anxiety symptoms, seeing a doctor would be a great idea. By seeking help, your doctor and mental health provider will help you to overcome your fears so that you do not become a prisoner to them.

Furthermore, your mental health provider will be able to show you strategies (e.g. relaxation techniques and lifestyle changes such as doing more exercise) that will help you to reduce your anxiety so that you feel better.2


Leukophobia is a rare type of phobia characterised by the unreasonable fear to colour white. As with all phobias, leukophobia is usually triggered by a traumatic experience associated with the feared stimulus (white) or by learning the behaviour during your early years from a person who is close to you. Furthermore, genetics have been suggested to play a role too. Nevertheless, luckily, there are effective treatments available, being the first-line treatment exposure therapy, which can help patients to overcome their fear of white so that they can live their lives without being prisoners of their fear.


  1. NHS. Phobias [Internet]. NHS. 2022 [cited 2023 July 9]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/phobias/overview/
  2. MayoClinic. Specific phobias [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. 2023 [cited 2023 July 10]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/specific-phobias/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355162
  3. Samra CK, Abdijadid S. Specific Phobia. 2018
  4. Wolitzky-Taylor KB, Horowitz JD, Powers MB, Telch MJ. Psychological approaches in the treatment of specific phobias: A meta-analysis. Clinical psychology review. 2008 Jul 1;28(6):1021-37.
  5. Eaton WW, Bienvenu OJ, Miloyan B. Specific phobias. The Lancet Psychiatry. 2018 Aug 1;5(8):678-86.
  6. Sars D, van Minnen A. On the use of exposure therapy in the treatment of anxiety disorders: a survey among cognitive behavioural therapists in the Netherlands. BMC psychology. 2015 Dec;3:1-0.
  7. Szeleszczuk Ł, Frączkowski D. Propranolol versus Other Selected Drugs in the Treatment of Various Types of Anxiety or Stress, with Particular Reference to Stage Fright and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Int J Mol Sci [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2024 Mar 30]; 23(17):10099. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9456064/.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Susana Nuevo Bonastre

Bachelor of Pharmacology – BSc, University of Manchester

Susana is a pharmacologist with strong organizational and communication skills and a special interest in medical writing. For her final year at the University of Manchester, she did a project in science communication, for which she developed an e-learning resource to increase awareness of Major Depressive Disorder. Susana is currently finishing a taught Master’s in neuroscience and psychology of mental health at King’s College. Susana has experience as a mentor and as a medical writer at Klarity Health and, even though she is specially interested in mental health and psychopharmacology, she has also written articles related to nutrition and different diseases.

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