Fear Of The Church: Definition, Types, Symptoms, Treatments

The fear of the church or ecclesiophobia , will prevent you often share important moments with family and friends. For many people, a specific phobia involving churches can be scary, especially if your beliefs hold that you should try to attend regular services.

However, even if you are not religious, the fear of churches can negatively impact your life. Weddings, funerals, and other religious ceremonies are significant events that can bring people together, even if you are not religious.

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Defining Ecclesiophobia

Ecclesiophobia, or fear of churches, refers to either of two separate fears:

  • A fear of the building itself
  • A fear of what the church stands for

If your fear of churches is actually a phobia, it is, by definition, life-limiting. (If you have a fear, but it does not limit the way you live your life in any way, it is not classified as a phobia.

Fear of church building

Some churches, particularly those hundreds or thousands of years old, can be imposing. Gothic cathedrals can conjure up images from Victorian horror novels.

Small village chapels can feel claustrophobic or make you uncomfortable and close contact with the people on the cliff. Even ultramodern church buildings can be disorienting.

Church buildings are often filled with images that can disturb both believers and non-believers. The scenes of Jesus’ suffering on the cross could trigger phobias of blood and death even in those who do not give a religious connotation to the representations.

Fear of the church

In many cases, the fear is not of the building itself but of known evil or religious practices that may occur inside.

Some people distrust “the church” as an entity, regardless of their personal religious beliefs. The true stories of pedophile priests in the Catholic Church and the organized emotional abuse of the LGBT community during conversion therapy, now discredited, “pray that homosexuals disappear”, are pervasive and could invoke fear, which, with time, it can turn into a true phobia.

Fear of religious buildings of other religions

Suppose you are comfortable in your own church, synagogue, mosque, or other religious institution, but fear those affiliated with other religions. In that case, you may be suffering from a form of xenophobia , which is fear of strangers.

Some denominations teach their followers that other religions are not trustworthy or even dangerous. You may be afraid that spending time in a house of worship belonging to another religion is sacrilegious.

Some atheists and agnostics report feeling uncomfortable or fearful in any religious building, regardless of affiliation.

Do you meet the criteria for a true phobia?

If you have an intense fear of churches, you might be wondering if it is a phobia. If you go to a therapist, he or she will help you solve it by comparing your symptoms with the diagnostic criteria of the American Psychiatric Association.

A true phobia of churches would fall under the category of specific phobia, the fear of a certain object or situation. However, you may also have another phobia that has similar symptoms.

You think that fear of churches might actually fit the APA criteria for agoraphobia. If you have agoraphobia, you fear that you will not be able to get to a safe and private place when you have a phobic reaction.

For example, if you are sitting in the middle of the pew and you begin to feel anxious, you may worry that you will not be able to escape and that you may feel humiliated if parishioners stare at you.


Whether the fear of churches is a specific phobia or occurs as part of agoraphobia, treatment often includes a combination of therapies.

However, the aggressive manner in which a specific church phobia is pursued may be related to the degree to which this specific phobia interferes with a person’s life.

For someone with strong faith who finds that attending worship services is an important part of that faith, the specific phobia will require a different approach than for someone who only goes to church on special occasions like a wedding.

Short-acting anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines, may be helpful for a person who attends church rarely. Still, due to their potential for abuse, it would not be a good option for someone looking for a way to attend church services once a week comfortably or even more than once a year.

If you are considering treatment, take a moment to learn about the goals of therapy for a specific phobia.

Final score

While some people may find this phobia funny, it is anything but fun for a person experiencing the phobia. A phobia, by definition, means that a person’s life is limited – negatively changed – by fear. Fortunately, treatment approaches can help people overcome a specific phobia.

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.