What is Porphyrophobia

  • Jason Ha Medicine (2027), second year student

Have you ever wondered about different phobias? Perhaps you or someone you know has an intense fear about something that causes anxiety just thinking about it. If so, you’re not alone. In a cross-national study, 7.4% of the population reported having a phobia. This is also higher among people assigned female at birth at 9.8% and lower among people assigned male at birth at 4.9%.1 

While there are a considerable number of people living with a phobia, there is also help for those in need. There are numerous research studies conducted providing data-driven solutions for overcoming a fear such as porphyrophobia. 

Read on to understand what porphyrophobia is, the common symptoms, treatments, and examples of successful strategies that allow you to improve your quality of life. 

What is Porphyrophobia?

Porphyrophobia is the fear of the colour purple. It is considered a specific phobia, which is defined as an intense fear and anxiety surrounding something such as an event, activity, or object. Specific phobias are hallmarked by irrational anxiety centred around the situation or item. Individuals experiencing porphyrophobia are aware of the excessive nature of their fear of purple, yet even so, the phobia is persistent.2  

Colours are omnipresent in society - purple objects and hues paint our visual field daily. Therefore, understanding porphyrophobia is key to helping individuals identify, cope, and treat this specific phobia. Luckily, it is likely that individual can successfully be treated for porphyrophobia and eventually live in a world where they are not fearful of the colour purple. 

What causes Porphyrophobia?

Porphyrophobia can negatively interfere with daily life, so it is important to know what causes or triggers this condition. There are thought to be at least two factors that cause porphyrophobia genetics and environment.  

Genetic factors stem from a family history of phobias. Research suggests that those who have a first-degree relative with a specific phobia have a significantly increased risk of also developing phobia compared to the general population.3 While this may be passed down by a blood relative through genetics, the increased risk may also be due to learning the fear because of the environment you grew up in.

This brings us to environmental factors as a cause of porphyrophobia, which can include cultural and societal influences, as well as lived traumatic experiences. Someone may form a negative association or experience a harrowing event that causes long-lasting fear around that situation moving forward. Here is an example of an environmental factor causing a specific phobia:

You may have heard of the famous 1920s experience “Little Albert”. In this experiment, John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner tested the theory of classical conditioning - where a stimulus is paired with a learned response, oftentimes emotionally charged.4 This was the case for Little Albert, a 9-month-old boy who was exposed to a series of white objects paired with a loud sound that made the infant frightened. As a result, the boy learned to have a fearful negative response to white objects. It is important to note that this study demonstrates clear ethical and moral issues and would not be allowed in modern-day scientific studies. Even so, this study is a clear demonstration of an environmental factor, here a lived traumatic experience, that caused a phobia of a specific colour similar to porphyrophobia. 

What does Porphyrophobia present like?

When porphyrophobia is triggered it may show up in different ways including emotional and psychological symptoms or physical responses to the colour. These may be demonstrated in the following ways: 

  1. Intense fear and anxiety surrounding the colour purple
  2. Obsessive thoughts or behaviours to avoid purple objects or scenes
  3. Panic attacks causing sweating, feeling lightheaded or dizzy, pounding or racing heartbeat, stomach or chest pains 

Each individual may experience different symptoms ranging from mental to physical presentations, but a key commonality is that these effects have a negative impact on daily life. 

How is Porphyrophobia diagnosed?

What should you do if you think you have porphyrophobia? Visiting a healthcare provider will help determine whether you have a specific phobia. During this visit, the doctor or mental health professional may diagnose you through a combination of the following:5

  1. Psychological assessments: answering questionnaires such as: what are your triggers for experiencing fear of the colour purple? How do these triggers affect you and your daily life? 
  2. Medical history: this includes personal and family history to determine any risk factors or other mental health conditions that may be present
  3. Symptom history: for example, how long has this phobia affected you? 

If your symptoms and history match the criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) your doctor may diagnose you with porphyrophobia.

How is Porphyrophobia treated?

Porphyrophobia can be treated in a number of ways, but most commonly healthcare professionals will attempt a combination of the following:6

  1. Exposure therapy: as the name suggests, this involves exposing the individual to their feared object or situation so that they learn that the feared response does not occur.7 This method helps to reduce anxiety by either replacing, competing, or inhibiting the fear response8
  2. Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioural therapy: this method can be similar to exposure therapy, but importantly uses cognitive intervention to help change thought patterns
  3. Technology-assisted therapy: these are new and exciting methods that may use the first two therapies (exposure and psychotherapy), but additionally use technology such as virtual or augmented reality. This method is proven to be successful because individuals are not required to confront the phobia in real life. The therapy can also effectively personalise to the person's first-hand experiences
  4. Medications: such as anti-anxiety drugs or antidepressants including beta-blockers or benzodiazepines. Always remember that it is crucial to consult with a qualified healthcare professional before initiating any medication

Coping Strategies for Porphyrophobia

If you suffer from porphyrophobia and the colour purple seems to be impacting your daily life there are some techniques you can use on your own to help you cope with the fear: 

  1. Relaxation or breathing exercises: many relaxation techniques such as yoga or breath work can help alleviate physical symptoms of fear responses
  2. Mindfulness practices: mindfulness meditation uses breath work to improve mental focus and alleviate anxious thoughts and stress
  3. Connection with friends and family, or support groups: letting a trusted community know that you may be struggling can help you feel connected. They can help you safely interact with the colour and discuss what feelings arise

Real-life Case of Specific Phobias

If you or someone you know is struggling with porphyrophobia, it is important to note that there are many success stories in overcoming specific phobias. For example, one research study documented an 18-year-old female with alektorophobia, the fear of chickens or hens. Her fear was based on environmental factors stemming from a frightening experience with a hen at the age of 5. This fear then generalised to all mentions or sightings of chickens or hens. After seeking help, she was diagnosed with this specific phobia by psychiatrists and entered a graded exposure therapy, whereby presentations of the fear are ranked, beginning with mild exposure and then increasing in intensity with each subsequent step. By also incorporating relaxation techniques, she achieved successful remission from her fear.9 


We hope this article answers your questions regarding porphyrophobia, which is the fear of the colour purple. Generally, this term is categorised as a specific phobia. Individuals with this phobia experience irrational anxiety related to the colour, despite being aware of its excessive nature. The fear can significantly impact daily life, necessitating an understanding of its causes and triggers.

Two main factors contribute to porphyrophobia: genetics, with a heightened risk for those with a family history of phobias, and environmental influences, including cultural, societal, and traumatic experiences. These causes have been well documented historically, but research is always ongoing to uncover insights about what causes porphyrophobia.

To understand porphyrophobia, it is important to be able to identify the common symptoms. Porphyrophobia manifests through intense fear and anxiety, obsessive thoughts, and physical symptoms like panic attacks. Diagnosing involves psychological assessments, medical history, and symptom evaluation based on criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

It is promising to note the plethora of treatments and coping strategies available. Treatment options include exposure therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, technology-assisted therapy, and medications like anti-anxiety drugs or antidepressants. Coping strategies involve relaxation exercises, mindfulness practices, and seeking support from friends, family, or support groups.

This article highlights successful cases of overcoming specific phobias through therapies such as graded exposure therapy, emphasising the potential for remission with appropriate interventions. 


  • Wardenaar KJ, Lim CCW, Al-Hamzawi AO, Alonso J, Andrade LH, Benjet C, et al. The cross-national epidemiology of specific phobia in the World Mental Health Surveys. Psychol Med [Internet]. 2017 Jul [cited 2024 Jan 18];47(10):1744–60. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5674525/
  • Samra CK, Abdijadid S. Specific phobia. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 [cited 2024 Jan 18]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499923/
  • Villafuerte S, Burmeister M. Untangling genetic networks of panic, phobia, fear and anxiety. Genome Biol [Internet]. 2003 [cited 2024 Jan 18];4(8):224. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC193636/
  • Watson JB, Rayner R. Conditioned emotional reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology. 1920;3(1):1–14.
  • American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders [Internet]. Fifth Edition. American Psychiatric Association; 2013 [cited 2024 Jan 18]. Available from: https://psychiatryonline.org/doi/book/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
  • Thng CEW, Lim-Ashworth NSJ, Poh BZQ, Lim CG. Recent developments in the intervention of specific phobia among adults: a rapid review. F1000Res [Internet]. 2020 Mar 19 [cited 2024 Jan 18];9:F1000 Faculty Rev-195. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7096216/
  • Odgers K, Kershaw KA, Li SH, Graham BM. The relative efficacy and efficiency of single- and multi-session exposure therapies for specific phobia: A meta-analysis. Behaviour Research and Therapy [Internet]. 2022 Dec 1 [cited 2024 Jan 18];159:104203. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005796722001747
  • Böhnlein J, Altegoer L, Muck NK, Roesmann K, Redlich R, Dannlowski U, et al. Factors influencing the success of exposure therapy for specific phobia: A systematic review. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews [Internet]. 2020 Jan 1 [cited 2024 Jan 18];108:796–820. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S014976341930404X
  • Trivedi SK, Mangot AG, Munoli RN. A rare case of alektorophobia treated successfully with graded exposure therapy. Ind Psychiatry J [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2024 Jan 16];25(1):116–8. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5248412/
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.

Get our health newsletter

Get daily health and wellness advice from our medical team.
Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to this website may be placed by us on our servers. If you do not agree do not provide the information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818