Medical Definition of Neophobia

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Neophobia: Fear of anything new, of innovation, an irrational fear of new situations, places, or things. In animal behavior, neophobia refers to the tendency of an animal to avoid or retreat from an unfamiliar object or situation.

All phobias are unreasonable sorts of fear that can cause avoidance and panic. They represent a relatively common type of anxiety disorder. Phobias can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy using exposure and fear reduction techniques. In many cases, anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication proves helpful, especially during the early stages of therapy.

The word "neophobia" should not be Greek to you. It comes from the Greek "neos" meaning new + "-phobia" from the Greek "phobos" meaning fear = fear (of anything) new. Neophobia is not a neologism (a new word); it's been around a while.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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