Hoplophobia is the fear of guns and people with weapons. This phobia leads a person to have irrational and obsessive fears regarding weapons and the dangers they may pose. It is considered a typical reaction, not a phobia, for a person to be scared if he or she is in a store and a robber walks in with a weapon. A person suffering from hoplophobia, on the other hand, is afraid of guns all the time, even when he or she is in no immediate danger. Severe gun phobia symptoms can control a person's daily actions, thoughts and decisions.
Some suffers of hoplophobia may have had it triggered by a traumatic childhood event such as a home invasion or loss of a parent to a gun wound. Other people with hoplophobia may have their symptoms pop up out of nowhere. When a person with a phobia of guns sees a weapon or thinks about weapons, physical symptoms such as sweating, chest pains, trouble breathing and shaking can occur. Some hoplophobics even have anxiety attacks or full-blown panic attacks if they encounter a weapon or even see a picture of a weapon.
Not all hoplophobics are impacted by the psychological condition the same way. Some sufferers may only experience symptoms when they see a gun in person and can avoid panic attacks by steering clear of shooting ranges or other places where guns may be present. People with extreme hoplophobia may be unable to work, socialize or even leave the house because of the harm they feel weapons can cause. Some extreme hoplophobics fear strangers may be carrying concealed weapons that can be used to harm them or others. Hoplophobics can even be uncomfortable around people who carry guns to protect the innocent, such as police officers.
A person who suffers from hoplophobia so severely that everyday life is impacted should seek the help of a mental health professional. A psychologist or psychiatrist can work with the patient to overcome the fear or find ways to deal with the fear when an anxiety attack occurs. Some mental health professionals use exposure therapy to slowly introduce the feared object into the person's life. Cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback therapy also can be used to treat hoplophobia. Patients also can be taught deep breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques to help make anxiety attacks shorter and less painful.