The Fear of Mirrors or Catoptrophobia

Mirror shoot of a woman

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The fear of mirrors is generally known as eisoptrophobia or catoptrophobia. Most people with this fear are not actually afraid of the mirror itself. Instead, they are afraid of the reflections within. The fear of mirrors is relatively rare and highly personalized. Some people are afraid of their own reflection, others of reflected words, and still others of the mirror's potential link with the supernatural.

What Is a Phobia?

A phobia is an overwhelming and unreasonable fear of an object or situation that poses little real danger but provokes anxiety and avoidance. Unlike the brief anxiety most people feel when they give a speech or take a test, a phobia is long-lasting, causes intense physical and psychological reactions, and can affect your ability to function normally at work or in social settings.

Several types of phobias exist. Some people fear large, open spaces. Others are unable to tolerate certain social situations. And still, others have a specific phobia, such as a fear of snakes, elevators, or flying.

Not all phobias need treatment. But if a phobia affects your daily life, several therapies are available that can help you overcome your fears — often permanently.

A specific phobia involves an irrational, persistent fear of a specific object or situation that's out of proportion to the actual risk. This includes a fear of situations (such as airplanes or enclosed spaces); nature (such as thunderstorms or heights); animals or insects (such as dogs or spiders); blood, injection or injury (such as knives or medical procedures); or other phobias (such as loud noises or clowns). There are many other types of specific phobias. It's not unusual to experience phobias about more than one object or situation.

Fear of Mirrors and Body Image

If you are uncomfortable with your body image, you might try to avoid seeing yourself in a mirror. Some people refuse to pose for photographs or to allow any sort of video or audio recording. Generally, people with mirror phobias based on body image do not mind having mirrors around, though they go out of their way to personally avoid them.

Fear of Reflections

A fear of mirrors may be related to a more generalized fear of reflections. In addition to mirrors, you may be afraid of any reflective material such as a highly polished car or some types of sunglasses. Reflections inherently distort the reflected items, causing them to appear slightly unreal. Some people are particularly afraid of reflected writing, which looks like gibberish.

Supernatural Fears

Mirrors have long been linked to religious rituals and superstitions. An ancient belief states that a mirror reflects a person's soul. According to the same belief, the soul regenerates every seven years. Thus, breaking a mirror breaks a piece of the soul, causing seven years of bad luck. Likewise, many cultures cover the mirrors in a newly deceased person's home to avoid trapping the person's soul.

The link between a mirror and the soul has led to a wide range of urban legends. Some say that a mirror serves as a portal between this world and the next. Seeing a reflection that should not exist is said to be a bad omen. Likewise, a children's game called Bloody Mary allegedly summons an evil entity through a bathroom mirror.

Mirror phobias based on the supernatural are generally rooted in religious beliefs and customs. They may be linked with fears of death, ghosts, and witchcraft.

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Article Sources
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  1. Samra CK, Abdijadid S. Specific Phobia. StatPearls. Updated online, April 11, 2019.

Additional Reading
  • American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

  • Mayo Clinic. Phobias.