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Xenophobia (Fear of Strangers) : Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Last Updated: Dec 26, 2020

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What is Xenophobia?

Xenophobia is a psychological term that means fear of strangers or foreigners. This phobia includes anything or anyone that is unfamiliar or unknown. If you are xenophobic then you might feel upset and anxious when you encounter an unknown or unfamiliar situation.

You might also have developed intolerance of uncertainty meaning any kind of uncertain circumstances might feel unbearable to you.

Types of Xenophobia

There are two types of xenophobia:

  1. Cultural Xenophobia: It involves rejecting objects, traditions, or symbols that are associated with another group or nationality. It can include language, clothing, and other traditions associated with the culture.
  2. Immigrant xenophobia: It involves rejecting people who the xenophobic individual does not beleive belongs in the ingroup society. It involve rejecting people of different religions or nationalities can lead to persecution, hostility and genocide.

Signs of Xenophobia

Xenophobia can also be expressed in different ways, signs include:

  • Going to great lengths to avoid particular areas
  • Feeling uncomfortable around the people who fall into different group
  • Facing difficulty in taking supervisor seriously or connecting with team mates who don't come into the same cultural or religious group
  • Refusing to be friends with people due to their skin color, dressing style or other external factors.

Symptoms of Xenophobia

Xenophobic symptoms include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Quick, shallow breathing
  • Muscle tension
  • Weakness
  • Blood glucose spike

If the condition is not so severe then these symptoms can go away quickly. Also, the fear of the unknown could severely harm your health sometimes. If you are xenophobic you might have developed a habit of catastrophizing (also known as cognitive distortion) or imagining the worst-case scenarios. It is a way of thinking that creates an inaccurate view of reality.


Causes of Xenophobia

Some of the causes of Xenophobia are as follows:

  • Lack of predictability: In this situation, you might feel that you don’t have enough info to make accurate predictions which causes anxiety to rise.
  • Lack of control: This is a feeling in which you can not control the circumstances and it causes the anxiety to rise. It is to be mentioned that a person’s age and disability both can decrease the sense of control. In many cases, the condition goes undiagnosed as the person to avoid situations that cause anxiety or give excuses to distract the attention from his/her unusual behavior.

How to Diagnosis Xenophobia?

Any phobia can only be diagnosed only by a mental health professional or a therapist. Your doctor would suggest any psychiatrist. They can help you with diagnosing the phobia.

They would ask you to describe what you feel or what happens to you when you find yourself between a group of strangers. You are advised to mention everything including your mental health symptoms you are experiencing. Also, remember to tell her since how long you have had this fear.

Treatment of Xenophobia

Exposure therapy:This therapy is considered to be one of the most effective treatments for specific phobias. In exposure therapy, you will work with a therapist to slowly expose yourself to what you’re afraid of. The activities performed in this type of therapy helps you to learn relaxation techniques to help you kill your fear of strangers.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy:Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT may help if you do not feel ready to try exposure therapy. In CBT, you’ll be working with a therapist to challenge and reframe negative thoughts about xenophobia. This therapy may include a bit of exposure to meeting with new people, but there is nothing to worry about as it is done only within the safe setting of a therapy session.

Medication for Xenophobia Treatment

There are no particular medications designed to treat phobias. Some medications, however, can be taken to get relief from panic or anxiety attacks. These include:

  • Beta-blockers: These drugs keep your blood pressure and heart rate at a steady rate & reduces other physical symptoms of anxiety.
  • Benzodiazepines: These medications are sedatives. They help in reducing anxiety symptoms, but they’re typically only prescribed for a short time or for occasional use, as they can be addictive.
  • D-cycloserine (DCS): This medicine increases the benefits of exposure therapy.

How to Overcome from Fear of Foreigners?

If you feel like you are suffering from xenophobia then you must examine yourself by asking a few questions. The questions might include:

  • To what extent are your beliefs logical?
  • Have you adopted any cognitive distortions in order to survive past difficulties?
  • Are those cognitive distortions hindering you now?

Research is important: Collect more and more information, so that you can make easier decisions. It is a necessary step so that if you experience xenophobia to your finances, and it makes you scared to look into the bills and budgets, researching properly will empower you by making better decisions.

Manage your stress with a healthy lifestyle: Below mentioned factors that help in increasing your capacity to deal with the stress that comes from uncertainty:

  • Exercise
  • Nutritious food
  • Balanced diet
  • Rest
  • Sleep
  • Mindfulness
  • Good relationships

You must also practice good self-care when you’re facing frightening unknowns.

Talk to someone you trust:Talking to someone and speaking your heart out is always the best option. In the case of being xenophobic, it is advised to take the help of a therapist as she may help you process your fear of the unknown and plan strategies to reframe your thinking patterns. If you are feeling uncomfortable visiting a therapist, then you must talk to a trusted friend or write down your feelings in your personal journals.

Tips for Combating Xenophobia:If you are struggling with xenophobia, there are things that you can do overcome your fear:

  • Broaden up your experience: Many people display xenophobia lived relatively sheltered with little exposure to those who are different from them. Travel to different parts of the world or spend some time in a nearby city.
  • Fight your fear of the unknown: It is one of the most powerful fears of all. If you have not been exposed to other cultures, races and religions, gaining more experience may be helpful in conquering your xenophobia.
  • Pay attention: Notice when xenophobic thoughts arrise. Make a conscious effort to remove these thoughts with the realistic ones.

Xenophobia is rooted in a mix of religious, upbringing and past experiences. Combating xenophobia means confronting the various aspects of personality and learning new ways of experiencing the world.

Additional Information on Xenophobia

In the Greek terms, xenophobia means stranger fearing. Xenophobia derives from two Greek terms: Xenos, meaning stranger or guest, and phobia, meaning fear or flight. It first appeared in print in English in the late 19th century.

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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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