Hoplophobia (fear Of Guns): Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

hoplophobia fear of guns

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

However, leaving aside their reputation or the personal opinion that each one has of them, A series of cases have been recorded in which people express an irrational and extreme fear of these gadgets, this fear is known as hoplophobia

What is hoplophobia?

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

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

Sometimes this phobia also manifests itself through an irrational and excessive fear of people who carry or use weapons, or even may have a great rejection or aversion to toy weapons

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

History of the term hoplophobia

In 1962, Colonel Jeff Cooper, instructor and firearms specialist, created this term to refer to a phenomenon that he had witnessed on a recurring basis. This phenomenon consisted of a type of mental alteration that was distinguished by an irrational aversion or terror of weapons.

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Another of the characteristics that distinguished Cooper was that People who suffer from hoplophobia have a series of recurring thoughts that weapons can have a will of their own

Currently, hoplophobia 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 must meet. This must be:

As a consequence of all these characteristics, it is common for the person who suffers from hoplophobia to avoid contact with any type of firearm by all means. Likewise, he will carry out all kinds of escape behaviors whenever he discovers the presence of a firearm.


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

These manifestations of anxiety appear every time the person is in front of a firearm, even when it is not clearly in sight That is, a person with hoplophobia may begin to experience symptoms only upon seeing a police officer with a gun hanging from his belt.

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

1. Physical symptoms

Sensations of fear in the presence or sighting of a firearm generate hyperactivity 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 anxiety episode the person may experience a large number of physical symptoms. These include:

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2. Cognitive symptoms

Hoplophobia is associated with a series of beliefs and speculations in relation to 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 number of behavioral symptoms. This behavioral symptomatology manifests itself 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 that the situation generates.

Regarding escape behaviors or acts, if the person cannot avoid encountering the object of their phobia, in this case weapons, they will do everything necessary to escape from the situation in which they find themselves involved.


As mentioned above, There is not a large volume of studies on hoplophobia, so its causes are still being fully established However, it is speculated that its etiology would have the same bases 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 whose education proclaimed an intense rejection of them would be much more susceptible to developing this type of phobia.


In most cases Hoplophobia is not highly disabling since the number of situations in which a person has to witness or face a weapon is not usually high

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Therefore, since hoplophobia does not usually interfere with a person’s daily life, very few people seek professional help to treat this anxiety disorder.

However, there are a series of specific situations or contexts in which it is possible for this phobia to obstruct the person’s daily routine. These exceptions include people who live in countries where gun ownership is legal, or people who work in contexts where gun use is common; such as in security forces or police forces.

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