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Hoplophobia (fear of arms): symptoms, causes and treatment

Hoplophobia (fear of arms): symptoms, causes and treatment

June 14, 2024

Experiencing a certain fear in the presence of a firearm is a natural reaction from the point of view of reason. In addition, the number of accidents, misfortunes or disasters related to them do not help this change.

However, leaving aside their reputation or the personal opinion that each one has of them, there have been a series of cases in which people manifest an irrational and extreme fear of these gadgets, this fear is known as hoplofobia .

What is hoplophobia?

Hoplophobia is a specific phobia in which the person experiences an unusual, exacerbated and unfounded fear of weapons in general or specifically of firearms.

If we take into account the origin of the term this derives from the Greek expression "hoplon" which means weapon and "phobos" that can be translated as fear. So it is logical to think that this phobia includes any type of weapon such as guns, rifles, rifles or any other type of firearm.

Sometimes this phobia is also manifested through an irrational and excessive fear towards people who carry or use weapons, or even can come to present a great rejection or aversion to toy weapons .

Like the other existing phobias, a person with hoplofobia will experience a series of emotions and physical manifestations related to a state of very high anxiety.

History of the term hoplofobia

In 1962, Colonel Jeff Cooper, instructor and specialist in firearms, created this term to refer to a phenomenon that he had witnessed repeatedly. This phenomenon consisted of a kind of mental alteration that was distinguished by the aversion or irrational terror to arms.

Another characteristic that distinguished Cooper was that people suffering from hoplofobia have a series of recurrent thoughts about weapons that may have their own will .

Currently, hoplofobia is studied from a psychological perspective, which attempts to understand the internal devices that intervene in the development of a phobic fear. Although there is not a large volume of research on hoplophobia, it fits perfectly with the requirements that a phobic fear has to fulfill. This must be:

  • Excessive
  • Irrational
  • Being outside the domain or control of the person
  • Persistent

As a consequence of all these characteristics, it is usual for the person suffering from hoplofobia to avoid contact with any type of firearm by all means. Likewise, he will carry out all kinds of escape behavior whenever he discovers the presence of a firearm.


Since hoplofobia fits within the classification of specific phobias its symptoms are similar to those of any other anxiety disorder of this type.

These manifestations of an anxious nature appear whenever the person is in front of a firearm, even when it is not clearly visible . That is to say, a person with hoplofobia can begin to experience the symptoms only when seeing a police agent with a weapon hung in the belt.

Like the rest of phobias, this symptomatology can be divided into physical, cognitive and behavioral symptoms.

1. Physical symptoms

The sensations of fear before the presence or sighting of a firearm generate an overactivity of the autonomic nervous system of the brain. This intensification of the functioning of the nervous system generates all kinds of changes and transformations in the body.

During the episode of anxiety the person may experience a lot of physical symptoms. These include:

  • Increase in the cardiac rate
  • Tachycardia
  • Increased breathing rhythm
  • Drowning sensation
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Headache
  • Stomach ache
  • Hyperhidrosis
  • Vertigos
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Oral dryness

2. Cognitive symptoms

Hoplofobia is associated with a series of beliefs and speculations in relation to the fear of firearms.

These distorted thoughts drive the development of this phobia and are distinguished because the person integrates a series of illogical beliefs about firearms and their attributes or qualities.

3. Behavioral symptoms

As expected, given the nature of this fear, hoplophobia carries with it a series of behavioral symptoms. This behavioral symptomatology is manifested through avoidance and escape behaviors.

Avoidance behaviors refer to all those acts or behaviors that the person carries out with the intention of avoiding encountering the phobic stimulus . In this way they manage to avoid the anguish and anxiety generated by the situation.

As for the behaviors or acts of escape, if the person can not avoid encountering the object of his phobia, in this case the weapons, he will do everything necessary to escape the situation in which he is involved.


As mentioned above, there is not a large volume of study of hoplofobia, so its causes are still completely established . However, it is speculated that its etiology would have the same basis as the rest of specific phobias.

Taking into account the theories about the development of phobias, those people with traumatic experiences in relation to weapons or in whose education they proclaimed an intense rejection of these would be much more susceptible to develop this type of phobia.


In most cases hoplofobia does not end up being highly incapacitating since the number of situations in which a person has to witness or deal with a weapon is not usually high .

Therefore, since the hoplofobia does not usually interfere in the person's daily life, very few people resort to professional help to treat this anxiety disorder.

However, there are a number of specific situations or contexts in which it is possible that this phobia may obstruct the daily routine of the person. These exceptions include people who live in countries in which the possession of weapons is legal, or people who work in contexts in which it is used are usual; as for example in security forces or police forces.

In these cases, interventions using a psychotherapy that includes a cognitive-behavioral treatment are very effective. This treatment can get the person overcome their phobic fear through gradual exposure to the stimulus accompanied by a training in relaxation techniques.

Zero Tolerance (June 2024).

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