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Heliophobia (Fear Of Sun Or Sunlight): Causes, Symptoms, Complications, And Treatment

Last Updated: May 20, 2024

What is Heliophobia?

Heliophobia is a specific type of phobia that refers to an intense fear of the sun or sunlight or any kind of bright light. The people suffering from this condition also develop an irrational fear of bright indoor light. Excessive sensitivity for sunlight is there in this condition which leads to avoidance of the same.

Heliophobia may be caused by extreme anxiety about getting skin cancer. Others may have a deep, overwhelming fear of wrinkling and photoaging. Heliophobia is a specific phobia and is an anxiety disorder.

Summary: Heliophobia commonly affects the people in the region of America where they remain less exposed to the sunlight or even stay away from it due to fear of developing skin cancer. It may result in other complications like vitamin D deficiency.

What are the symptoms of Heliophobia (Fear Of Sun Or Sunlight)?

There are different symptoms related to Heliophobia depending upon the severity of the conditions as well as the particular individual. Some of the important symptoms which are usually shown in this condition include the following:

  • A feeling of being uncomfortable, shaky, or numb while in some cases, nausea and vomiting tendencies are common. These are considered mild symptoms.
  • Anxiety and panic attacks are considered severe symptoms which need proper medical attention and care.
  • Abnormal senses, lack of concentration, palpitations, faster breathing, and fear of being trapped are some of the other symptoms commonly observed in Heliophobia.
  • Physical discomfort is also common among Heliophobic persons which may be a result of panic as well as fear of getting exposed to the sunlight.
  • The severe sensation of the burning skin in sunlight may also be felt while the skin is not actually getting burnt. This condition is a rare genetic defect known as erythropoietic protoporphyria.
Summary: Heliophobia is a specific kind of phobia that along with showing symptoms can develop complications in the individual also. Anxiety, panic attacks, severe anxiety and palpitations, and difficulty breathing are some of them.

What causes Heliophobia?

Heliophobia may have different causes or origins which depend upon various factors. Some of the important causes of heliophobia include the following:

  • Fear of developing skin cancer: This is a common cause in which people are frightened as they get to know about the reasons for skin cancer. They become anxious as if this condition can definitely occur to them if they are being exposed to sunlight. Hence, they start avoiding going out in the sun.
  • The person with Obsessive Compulsive disorder: In this case, the person who is suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, starts to stick to the obsessive thoughts related to developing skin cancer. This builds a sense of fear in them towards exposure to sunlight.
  • Migraines: These may include chronic migraines which are triggered by light exposure.
  • Severe sunburn
  • Keratoconus: This is a disorder related to the eye which leads to extreme optic sensitivity towards the bright light.
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda: In this condition, the skin becomes oversensitive as a result of which blisters are formed on the skin.
Summary: Heliophobia is usually related to anxiety. It is of two types i.e Simple and Complex types of phobias. Symptoms are mild to moderate in the former while they become severe and complicated in the later one.

How is Heliophobia (Fear Of Sun Or Sunlight) diagnosed?

Diagnosis of Heliophobia is done by a therapist or psychologist in the following ways:

  • The patient is asked about the symptoms in detail. These symptoms include physical as well as mental symptoms.
  • The therapist talks to the patient to assess the levels of anxiety in different states of mind.
  • A detailed explanation of Social, medical as well as psychiatric history is taken.
  • The patient is enquired about any genetic history if present.
Summary: The affected person’s social, psychological, and medical history is important and taken into consideration by the therapist during diagnosing the condition. Any family history related to this is also asked.

How to prevent Heliophobia?

Prevention of Heliophobia can be done in the following ways:

  • Self-help techniques - A person suffering from heliophobia should seek or join a self-help group that is meant to support the affected individual. He/she can discuss with the people in the group the things they have been facing.
  • Psychotherapeutic techniques - The affected individual should be free to talk about his/her problems related to heliophobia with the other ones who can understand and support him/her.
  • Avoiding exposure to bright light or sunlight should not be practiced. One should try to face it with strength.
Summary: Heliophobia is a type of phobia that can be treated well in all conditions. It interferes with the affected individual’s quality of life and hence needs to be treated as early as possible.

What to do when Heliophobia?

If a person is suffering from Heliophobia, he/she should not get panicked or be frightened. They must feel free to talk about their problems regarding the phobia with other people who can understand them. They should take the help from the support groups which are meant to help such affected people.

One more important thing a heliophobic person can do is to face the bright light or sunlight rather than avoid it. Other things one can do include seeking self-help techniques and psychotherapeutic techniques.

Summary: The treatment of Heliophobia is quite possible and can be done by different methods. The treatment of the condition is important so as to improve the quality of life of the affected individual as it interferes with daily regular activities.

Can Heliophobia go away on its own?

Heliophobia may get resolved spontaneously or it may persist longer depending upon the age of the individuals as well as the severity of the symptoms. In the case of children, this condition can disappear gradually over a certain period of time in most cases.

However, in adults, the possibility of resolving this condition is comparatively lesser than that of child age groups. Heliophobia can last for a longer period of time in most adults.

How is Heliophobia treated?

Heliophobia which is referred to as the fear of exposure to sunlight or bright light can be treated by some of the following methods:

  1. Talk therapy - It is important that the heliophobic person should feel free to talk about the problems or things he/she is facing to the other persons whom he is comfortable talking to.
  2. Exposure therapy - Avoiding exposure to bright light or sunlight should not be practiced. One should try to face it with strength.
  3. Self-help techniques - A person suffering from heliophobia should seek or join a self-help group that is meant to support the affected individual. He/she can discuss with the people in the group the things they have been facing.
  4. Support groups.
  5. Cognitive-behavioral therapy.
  6. Relaxation techniques.
  7. Medications for anxiety.
Summary: Treatment of Heliophobia is quite possible through different techniques. These may include supportive therapy i.e the affected person should be made feel free to talk about his/her problems regarding heliophobia. Other ways are medications and relaxation therapy.

What to eat in heliophobia?

We should prefer to eat caffeine-free food items when suffering from Heliophobia since caffeine is responsible for initiating panic attacks. A normal well-balanced diet is essential during such conditions. The diet should consist of all the nutrients including protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals in a required proportion. This is important for the healthy well-being of the individual so as to cope with the symptoms of heliophobia.

Summary: A well-balanced diet is the need of our body not only to maintain good health but to fight against several health issues. Heliophobia cannot be treated by modifying dietary intake only but it can contribute towards recovery from the condition.

What not to eat in heliophobia?

Consumption of caffeine should be minimized in case of Heliophobia. Caffeine is known to have stimulating effects on anxiety as it increases heartbeat, resulting in an abnormal heartbeat or palpitations. As our heartbeat increases, our state of mind may proceed into fight or flight mode.

This ultimately leads to experiencing panic attacks. Hence, it is preferred to avoid beverages such as coffee or tea as they are high in caffeine content. Food items like dark chocolate are also caffeine-rich hence should be avoided in such conditions.

Summary: Heliophobia is indirectly related to dietary intake. Caffeine is a triggering factor for enhancing anxiety and increasing panic attacks. Hence, it is better to avoid caffeine-rich food items including tea, coffee, or dark chocolate by a heliophobic person.

What are the side effects of Heliophobia treatments?

Treatment of heliophobia includes certain medications such as sedatives, beta-blockers, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These medicines have some side effects out of which the most important are addictive or habit-forming effects. These medicines induce a feeling of dependence in the affected individuals which is quite harmful and may lead to toxicity in the body.

Summary: Having side effects due to certain medicines is quite normal. Sedatives, beta-blockers, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are some of the medications which are bound to show addiction or habit-forming effects in the patient. These are used to treat heliophobia.

Should I go to urgent care for Heliophobia?

Heliophobia can be serious in some cases which need to undergo urgent medical care and treatments. Such cases which are not self-treatable or do not go away on their own are accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Panic attacks.
  • Abnormal heartbeats.
  • Difficulty in breathing.
  • Elevated levels of blood pressure.
  • Excessive sweating.
Summary: Mild to moderate cases of heliophobia is self-controllable and can be managed by supportive therapy. But the severe cases showing symptoms like panic attacks, palpitations, over-sweating, raised blood pressure levels, etc. need urgent medical care and treatment.

How long does it take to recover from Heliophobia?

The time duration which is taken for a heliophobic person to recover completely depends upon the age of individuals and severity of the symptoms. In the case of children, it is comparatively easier for the symptoms to get resolved.

It may gradually resolve spontaneously or take a few months. In adults, the average time taken to recover from heliophobia is considered to be around six months. It takes more time for adults to recover completely from such conditions.

Summary: Time taken to recover from heliophobia is comparatively lesser in children than adults. It basically depends upon the severity of symptoms along with the age of the individual.

What is the price of Heliophobia treatment in India?

The treatment of Heliophobia includes certain medications and psychotherapeutic methods. The treatment-related to psychotherapeutic methods is considered to be expensive in countries like India as they are not easily accessible for middle or lower-class people.

The treatment consists of regular and periodic sessions which can range from INR 500 per hour up to INR 2000 per hour. This depends upon the psychiatrist. The medications used in the treatment are moderately priced.

Summary: Heliophobia like conditions can be treated by the application of certain medications and psychotherapeutic methods. These therapies are quite expensive and hence not easily accessible for lower or middle-class people. The cost of each periodic session of psychotherapy ranges from INR500 up to INR2000 per hour.

Physical exercises for the people suffering from Heliophobia:

Exercises are beneficial in specific cases of phobias such as Heliophobia. Some of the exercises which are preferred to be followed in this condition include:

  1. Yoga: It relaxes the mind and works effectively against stress and anxiety.
  2. Meditation: This is also important for reducing mental stress and helps to overcome the phase of anxiety.
  3. Stretching: stretching is a mild form of exercise which is important for improving blood circulation in the body and mind and hence helps to recover from stress.
  4. Regular physical activities and exercises: These are also helpful to recover from stress and anxiety.
Summary: Exercises are a key to good health. They are the most effective therapy in the case of phobias such as Heliophobia. Yoga, meditation, stretching, and regular physical activities are mild forms of exercise that provide relaxation to the mind and body.

Are the results of the treatment of Heliophobia permanent?

The treatment of Heliophobia which mainly involves medications and psychotherapeutic methods has good results. These results are usually permanent in most cases. In some cases it may have chances of rebound or recurrence, however, such chances are rare.

Summary: Heliophobia is treated mainly with medications and psychotherapeutic methods under the supervision of a specialist. The results of the treatment are permanent in most of the cases, however, recurrence may occur in some.

What are the alternatives to the treatment of heliophobia?

Some alternatives to the treatment of Heliophobia may include:

  • Regular physical exercises - These improve blood circulation in the whole body and mind, leading to relaxation of the mind
  • Yoga - This is important to minimize the stress associated with heliophobia.
  • Meditation - This is an effective way to relax our mind and helps us to overcome anxiety
  • Taking care of dietary intake mainly involves avoiding caffeine-rich beverages or food items such as tea, coffee, and dark chocolate.
Summary: The methods alternative to psychotherapeutic methods and medications may include exercises and physical activities on a regular basis, yoga, meditation, and some important dietary modifications.

Who is eligible for Heliophobia treatment?

Heliophobia in some cases can get resolved spontaneously and does not require medical care. Such cases are accompanied by mild symptoms such as physical discomfort, mild nausea, numbness, and feeling of being shaky. However, there are certain cases that show serious symptoms and require medical attention and care on an urgent basis.

Such cases are associated with symptoms like anxiety, panic attacks, shortness of breath, palpitations, difficulty in breathing, and severe migraines.

Who is not eligible for Heliophobia treatment?

Heliophobia may get resolved spontaneously in some cases without any need for medical attention and care. Such cases are accompanied by mild symptoms including physical discomfort, mild nausea, numbness, and feeling of being shaky. These symptoms can be controlled and managed by self-care techniques or may disappear themselves.

What are the Heliophobia post-treatment guidelines?

Heliophobia (Fear Of Sun Or Sunlight) may show recurrence or rebound effects post-recovery. Hence, it is important to follow some essential post-treatment guidelines which are important to minimize risks of recurrence. Some of them include:

  • Regular physical exercises
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Taking care of dietary intake which mainly includes avoiding caffeinated beverages.
Summary: Heliophobia is a specific type of phobia that refers to an intense fear of the sun or sunlight or any kind of bright light. It can be treated by medications and psychotherapeutic approaches. Some lifestyle changes or dietary modifications also play a key role in its management.

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Written ByDrx Hina FirdousPhD (Pharmacology) Pursuing, M.Pharma (Pharmacology), B.Pharma - Certificate in Nutrition and Child CarePharmacology
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Reviewed ByDr. Bhupindera Jaswant SinghMD - Consultant PhysicianGeneral Physician
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