Phasmophobia is an abnormal and persistent fear of ghosts, spectres or phantasms. It derives from the greek words phasma meaning apparition and phobos meaning fear. It is often bought about by experiences in early childhood and causes sufferers to experience panic attacks.
It is categorized by a series of symptoms that the sufferer experiences when they think they have seen a ghost, or apparition. The sufferer usually experiences intense feelings of terror or dread and are often prone to panic or have panic attacks, these symptoms in turn result in an increased or rapid heartbeat. Another common symptom, typical of a majority of specific phobia, is attempts by affected individuals to completely avoid a situation in which one may think they are prone to encountering what they perceive as a ghost.
Phasmophobia is similar to other specific phobia in that it is the result of the unconscious mind acting a defence mechanism to try and avoid a certain situation or object and is thus classified as a type of mental health disorder. It is often brought about by a person believing they have had an encounter with a ghost, most often at an early age, but can also be caused by television and films. When brought about by the latter it is often temporary.
Although the actual existence of ghosts is debated, the fear of ghosts only requires a person to believe they have had an encounter. For example, in an attempt to recall certain events pertaining to a possible encounter with a ghost, a hypnotist might use hypnosis to retrieve the lost memories of the event. Research studies have found that these hypnotically refreshed memories typically combine fact with fiction, but would convince a patient of the realness of their encounter.
There is also the psychological factor of entering a premises in which one already possess prior information that it is suspected as being haunted or is similar to other supposedly haunted places, the psychological impact of this alone can cause the anxiety brought about by phasmophobia.
Due to the nature of the condition, sufferers are not necessarily afraid of ghosts or other apparitions but rather what they perceive to be a ghost, or to enter into a situation in which they feel they are likely to encounter a ghost. For example, a sufferer of cynophobia an abnormal fear of dogs is afraid specifically of canines, rather than a situation in which they could encounter a canine.
The fear itself is also prone to inflame itself, in that due to the onset of panic caused by the phobia, a sufferer is severely impaired in terms of judgment, therefore when a sufferer sees or experiences what they think could be a ghost, their ability of rational thinking is eliminated and so the urge to find the true nature of the experience is lost and instead a fully fledged panic attack is often triggered.