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What is Botanophobia?

Last updated on 3rd May 2023

Botanophobia is a rarely occurring type of specific phobia that is characterised by an extreme and overwhelming fear of plants. There are more than 400 different types of specific phobias and approximately 5 million people in the UK who currently have a specific phobia. It is unknown how many of these people experience botanophobia.

Someone with botanophobia may experience fear, anxiety and panic in relation to all plants, including vegetables, or only specific plants.

Today, we are going to look at botanophobia in more detail, including the common causes, symptoms, triggers and treatments.

What is Botanophobia?

Botanophobia is an extreme, irrational and overwhelming fear of plants. People with botanophobia often perceive plants as being dangerous or harmful. This means they will likely experience intense fear, anxiety or panic at the sight, smell or touch of plants or at the thought of coming into contact with plants.

Botanophobia is a type of specific phobia – An enduring, overwhelming and irrational fear of a specific object, situation, place or person; in this case, an extreme fear of plants. Someone with botanophobia may experience negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours in relation to all plants or only when faced with specific types of plants.

Botanophobia is associated with many specific fears related to plants, for example:

  • That plants are toxic to humans.
  • That plants are infested with harmful germs or bacteria.
  • That plants are infested with insects that can be harmful to humans.
  • That plants will evolve and overtake humans.
  • That plants can bite or sting you or cause a rash or another adverse reaction.
  • That plants are using up too much oxygen which could cause humans to suffocate.
  • That eating plants (including fruits and vegetables) could seriously harm you or result in death.

Someone with botanophobia may go to extreme lengths to ensure that they don’t come into contact with plants, including being near them or even seeing them from a distance. This can make it difficult for them to perform everyday tasks or to function normally in society. Someone with botanophobia may implement avoidance behaviours which are designed to help them avoid encountering plants.

They may typically avoid green areas, such as parks, fields and the countryside. However, many local councils are running initiatives to make greener villages, towns and cities, meaning they are planting more trees, flowers and plants in urban areas. Furthermore, many indoor venues, such as cafes, restaurants and shops, are using plants to decorate their spaces. This can make it extremely difficult to avoid plants, even in places where you would not expect to encounter them.

When someone with botanophobia implements avoidance behaviours, they are usually designed to help them avoid plants, and therefore avoid their phobia being triggered and them experiencing symptoms. However, avoidance behaviours can actually have a paradoxical effect, meaning that instead of helping you to manage or reduce your symptoms, avoiding plants can actually have the opposite effect and instead reinforce your fear and result in more severe symptoms in the future.

Avoidance behaviours can also have a negative impact on your social life, your relationships and your ability to perform everyday tasks. Some people with botanophobia experience fear, anxiety and panic that is so extreme that they are unable to leave their homes because of their fear of coming into contact with plants. They may even be unable to spend time in their own garden or look out of their windows. Other people with botanophobia refuse to eat fruits and vegetables and other foods that grow out of the ground.

Someone who has a phobia of plants may also have difficulty concentrating or functioning in certain places and situations. They may find that they are consumed by thoughts of plants or the fear that they might unexpectedly encounter a plant. This fear and anxiety can have a significant impact on their mental and emotional well-being and their behaviour.

However, botanophobia can occur on a spectrum, with some people experiencing more severe symptoms than others. It is a highly individualised condition, as it manifests differently in different people. Some people find that their symptoms are more easily triggered than others whereas other people are able to function normally in places and situations where they could encounter plants. Some people find that only some plants trigger their symptoms.

To be classified as having botanophobia, your fear of plants will include:

  • Feelings of intense fear, panic or anxiety that are difficult to manage.
  • Fear or anxiety that is out of proportion to the true risk.
  • A fear of plants that lasts for at least six months.
  • Engaging in avoidance behaviours to prevent encounters with plants.
  • A fear of plants that interferes with your day-to-day life, overall well-being or sense of safety.

Someone with botanophobia may be aware that their fear of plants is irrational and that the risks associated with coming into contact with plants are minimal. However, you may still be unable to control your fear and panic and prevent or reduce your physiological and psychological responses to plants.

Botanophobia is often connected to or can occur in conjunction with other phobias, such as:

  • Anthophobia: An extreme fear of flowers.
  • Dendrophobia: An extreme fear of trees.
  • Agrostophobia: An extreme fear of grass.
  • Entomophobia: An extreme fear of insects.
  • Arachnophobia: An extreme fear of spiders.
  • Mysophobia: An extreme fear of germs.
Botanophobia fear of plants

How common is botanophobia?

Because a phobia of plants is a type of specific phobia, diagnoses of botanophobia must comply with the diagnostic criteria for specific phobias. This means there are no individual statistics available that show how many people have botanophobia. However, approximately 7.5% of the population has a type of specific phobia, which equates to almost 5 million people.

Botanophobia is not thought to be a commonly occurring phobia, with a low number of people being diagnosed with this type of phobia.

However, it is unknown whether the low diagnostic rates for botanophobia are a result of it not being a prevalent phobia or for other reasons, such as:

  • People have not heard of botanophobia so may not realise they are experiencing a diagnosable medical condition.
  • People aren’t aware that there are effective phobia treatments available.
  • Someone who is scared of plants may not discuss their fear of plants with others so may not be aware that their thoughts, feelings and behaviours are extreme and irrational.
  • Someone with botanophobia may implement avoidance behaviours that reduce or eliminate their contact with plants.
  • They may be aware that their fear is irrational and may be experiencing feelings of embarrassment or shame.

Although experiencing fear and anxiety in relation to plants isn’t common, this doesn’t mean that every person who dislikes plants is experiencing a phobia. Negative thoughts and emotions about plants occur on a spectrum, ranging from low levels of fear and anxiety to severe fear, panic and anxiety that can impact your day-to-day life, affect your decision-making and result in avoidance behaviours of certain places and situations. Determining how many people are experiencing a phobia and how many people dislike plants can be difficult.

Who is at risk of botanophobia?

Although people of all ages, backgrounds and demographics can develop botanophobia, there are certain risk factors that can increase the risk of someone developing a phobia of plants.

This can include:

  • Having a previous traumatic, scary or negative experience involving plants.
  • Having an allergy to plants, for example, hay fever.
  • Having little day-to-day contact with plants, for example, if you live in a big city.
  • Having another related phobia, such as anthophobia or dendrophobia.
  • Having a close family member, for example, a parent or sibling, with botanophobia.
  • Having a close family member, for example, a parent or sibling, with another phobia.
  • Being exposed to the fear of plants during childhood or adolescence.
  • Being an intrinsically more anxious or nervous person.
  • Having a history of anxiety disorders or other mental health difficulties.
  • Going through a significant life stressor, having higher than usual stress levels or being in a heightened mental state (particularly if you are exposed to a fear of plants or have a negative experience involving plants during this time).
  • Having a substance use disorder, such as an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

However, it is important to note that although the above risk factors increase the likelihood that someone will develop botanophobia, they do not guarantee this. An individual with none of the above risk factors may develop botanophobia, whereas someone with several risk factors may never develop the condition and may enjoy spending time around plants throughout their life.

Similarly to other phobias, botanophobia is more likely to develop during childhood or adolescence, particularly if the phobia develops as a result of a traumatic or negative experience involving plants. This is because trauma can cause feelings of anxiety and fear and children often have a reduced ability to cope with these feelings and rationalise their thoughts, meaning they may be more likely to develop a phobia.

How to deal with botanophobia

As well as the formal treatments that are available, there are other coping and calming strategies you can implement that can help you deal with your phobia of plants and manage or reduce your symptoms. Coping and calming strategies can be implemented in conjunction with lifestyle changes to reduce the impact your phobia has on your everyday life and your well-being and reduce the likelihood of your phobia being triggered.

Some of the strategies should be implemented long term. This means you can implement them habitually on a long-term basis. This can help to reduce the frequency and severity of your symptoms in the long run and reduce the chance that coming into contact with plants will result in a negative phobic response.

Some strategies can be implemented short term if you find yourself faced with plants. Short-term strategies can help you to manage your phobia in triggering situations and reduce or avoid any adverse symptoms.

Some of the long- and short-term coping and calming strategies that can be implemented to help you deal with your botanophobia are:

  • Desensitise yourself
    Desensitisation can help you to be less triggered by plants and can help to reduce the impact botanophobia has on your everyday life. Desensitisation is most effective when it occurs gradually, as it ensures you feel calm and assured and don’t feel overwhelmed. Some ways you can desensitise yourself are by keeping artificial plants in your home, viewing plants from a distance and planting a seed. Gradually desensitising yourself can help you to slowly reduce your fear response to plants.
  • Learn about your fear
    Identifying what initially caused your phobia of plants and thinking about the initial onset of your fear and the situation surrounding it can help you to understand your phobia in more depth. This enables you to address the root cause of your fear and any negative thoughts, emotions and behaviours that are linked to it. Understanding your phobia enables you to rationalise and understand the negative thoughts that are related to it, reduce your automatic fear response and reduce the frequency and severity of your symptoms.
  • Create a fear ladder
    A fear ladder can help you to analyse and understand your fear of plants. A fear ladder enables you to identify which triggers result in more severe fear, anxiety and panic than others. When you create a fear ladder, you should organise your triggers from least severe to most severe. Because botanophobia manifests differently in different people, every individual fear ladder will be different.
    An example fear ladder is shown below:
    – 1 = Touching a plant.
    – 2 = Eating fruits or vegetables.
    – 3 = Being close to a plant.
    – 4 = Planting a seed.
    – 5 = Viewing plants from a distance.
    – 6 = Watching a video of a plant growing.
    Following the creation of your fear ladder, you can then confront your triggers individually, starting at the bottom of the ladder (the trigger that results in the least phobic response). This can help you to build up your tolerance of your triggers gradually and reduce your fear of plants long term.
  • Challenge negative thoughts and feelings
    If you have botanophobia, you may find yourself thinking about plants negatively or recalling negative experiences involving plants with increasing distress. If you find you do this, try to disrupt and challenge any negative thoughts and memories to prevent your fear from escalating. Remind yourself that plants do not pose a danger to you and that your fear is irrational. If you begin to experience symptoms of botanophobia, remind yourself that the feelings will soon pass, that your fear is disproportionate and that plants aren’t going to hurt you.
  • Avoid negative depictions of plants or negative stories about plants
    TV shows, films or news stories that portray plants negatively can validate and reinforce any negative connotations you have already associated with them. This can result in you experiencing more severe fear and anxiety. Avoid any triggering or negative depictions of plants to prevent your phobia from escalating. You should also avoid hearing any negative stories from friends or family, such as a story about someone being stung by a plant or having an adverse reaction when they ate a plant. Making your family aware of your fear can ensure they are more mindful in the future.
  • Practise mindfulness
    Mindfulness can be beneficial in treating a variety of anxiety disorders, including phobias such as botanophobia. Mindfulness helps you to focus your breathing and attention and reduces the likelihood that you will experience a panic attack if you are faced with your triggers. Mindfulness can also help you to manage stress and anxiety and explore the connection between mind and body as well as helping you to manage the symptoms of your phobia.
  • Practise yoga or meditation
    Yoga and meditation are both long-term coping and calming strategies that can help you to manage your phobia and reduce the impact it has on your life. They can both teach you how to control your breathing and manage your body’s automatic reaction to plants, which can help you feel more in control and calm. Yoga and meditation can reduce the negative thoughts, feelings and responses you may have when faced with plants in the future. Engaging in them every day can help to improve the symptoms of your phobia over time and reduce the impact your phobia has on your life.
  • Practise deep breathing exercises
    Deep breathing exercises can be effective in helping you to deal with your phobia both long term and short term. They are a helpful calming strategy that can effectively reduce your stress levels, relieve tension in your body and help you to reduce anxiety and panic. Deep breathing triggers your brain to relax and calm down. Practise deep breathing routinely (at least once a day) and implement the strategies you have learnt if you are faced with plants in the future.
  • Use visualisation techniques
    Visualisation is another short-term strategy that enables you to reduce the symptoms of your phobia if you are faced with plants in the future. If you encounter a trigger or experience the onset of symptoms, visualising a place or memory that keeps you calm or elicits positive emotions can enable you to alleviate your symptoms and prevent your fear from escalating.
  • Implement lifestyle changes
    Multiple lifestyle factors can worsen the symptoms of botanophobia, including a poor sleep schedule and higher than usual stress levels. To reduce the impact your phobia has on your life, implement a successful sleep routine and try to alleviate any stress. These changes can help to reduce the severity of your phobia. Other lifestyle factors that can help you to manage your botanophobia are to try to eat a healthy, balanced diet and increase the amount of exercise you do. If there is a chance you could potentially encounter a trigger, avoiding caffeine, sugar and other stimulants can reduce the chance that your heart rate and blood pressure will rise and that the symptoms of your phobia will worsen.
Watering cans can trigger botanophobia

What triggers botanophobia?

Because botanophobia is an individualised phobia, there are many different potential triggers and triggers can vary from person to person. Some people find that their phobia is only triggered by one thing whereas other people have many different triggers.

The types of triggers and the number of triggers experienced by different people can vary depending on what initially caused their phobia to develop, their perception of the potential risk, the severity of their symptoms and their current mindset and mental health.

The most common triggers for botanophobia are:

  • Seeing a plant.
  • Smelling a plant.
  • Feeling a plant touching your skin or clothing.
  • Seeing an artificial or plastic plant.
  • Seeing something you associate with plants, such as gardening tools or a watering can.
  • Being close to a plant, even if you cannot see it.
  • Seeing other things that grow, such as grass, trees, flowers and vegetables.
  • Going to a place where plants are usually found, such as a park.
  • Entering Spring and Summer when you are more likely to see plants.
  • Eating fruits, vegetables, grains and other foods that grow out of the ground.
  • Watching a video or seeing a picture of plants.
  • Thinking of plants or remembering a previous encounter with plants.
  • Knowing that you are in close proximity to plants, even if you cannot see them.

What are the symptoms of botanophobia?

The symptoms of botanophobia can occur at any time, including when you encounter one of your triggers, when you see, smell or touch plants, when you think about plants or remember a previous encounter with plants. The symptoms of botanophobia can vary significantly in their frequency, severity and the way they manifest. Symptoms can differ from person to person and from situation to situation.

The symptoms of botanophobia can occur in a huge range of places and situations, most specifically when there is a risk of encountering plants. Differences in the severity and manifestation of symptoms can occur for multiple reasons, including because of different triggers, the perceived risk and threat of danger, your current mental and emotional health and well-being and any treatments you are undergoing or coping strategies you have implemented.

Botanophobia symptoms can range from mild to severe, with some people experiencing more severe symptoms than others. It could also be that different triggers and situations result in more severe symptoms, for example, your symptoms may be more severe if a plant touches your skin, compared to if you see plants from a distance.

In more severe cases of botanophobia, symptoms can be similar to the symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks. In fact, some people with botanophobia experience panic attacks when they come into contact with plants. The symptoms of this phobia are often automatic and uncontrollable. This could mean that when you encounter plants, you are unable to control or manage your thoughts or feelings and feel that your phobia is taking over your body.

The symptoms of botanophobia can be physiological (related to your body), psychological (related to your mind) and behavioural and can include:

Psychological Symptoms:

  • Overwhelming fear, anxiety or panic when faced with plants or when you encounter a trigger.
  • Feelings of fear, anxiety or panic that are out of proportion to the risks.
  • Being unable to control your fear, anxiety or panic even if you are aware that they are out of proportion to the risk.
  • Feeling immobilised by your fear or feeling like you are unable to move.
  • Anticipatory anxiety in the lead-up to triggering situations.
  • Feeling like you are not in control or are about to lose control.
  • Difficulties concentrating or functioning normally around plants or in triggering situations.
  • Feeling defenceless or vulnerable.
  • Experiencing frequent or distressing nightmares about plants.
  • Having an impending sense of doom or feeling like you are going to die.

Physiological Symptoms:

  • Dizziness or light-headedness.
  • Excessive or unusual sweating or clamminess.
  • Shaking or trembling.
  • Chills.
  • Shortness of breath, hyperventilating or feeling like you can’t catch your breath.
  • Heart palpitations, increased heart rate or feeling like your heart is pounding.
  • Chest pain or tightness in your chest.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Nausea, vomiting, indigestion or an upset stomach.
  • Confusion or disorientation.
  • Unusual tiredness.
  • Muscle tension or feeling like your muscles are stiff.
  • Feeling like your mouth is dry or sticky.
  • Experiencing a choking sensation, finding it difficult to swallow or feeling like something is stuck in your throat.
  • Having a prickling sensation or feeling like you have pins and needles.
  • A lack of appetite when in triggering situations or in the lead-up to triggering situations.
  • Insomnia in the lead-up to triggering situations.
  • Unusual sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures.
  • Experiencing a panic attack.

Behavioural Symptoms:

  • Avoiding plants or any places or situations where you could encounter plants or other triggers.
  • Refusing to eat fruits and vegetables and any other foods that grow from the ground.
  • Refusing to eat animals in case they have ingested a plant that is toxic or dangerous to humans.
  • Refusing to leave your home in case you encounter plants.
  • Refusal to think about or talk about plants.
  • Having the urge to run away or hide when faced with plants.
  • Withdrawing from social or professional situations.

What causes botanophobia?

There are many different potential causes of botanophobia and, as with other phobias, the cause can vary from person to person. Some people can identify one clear cause of their fear of plants, whereas for other people multiple factors contributed to them developing a phobia. It could also be that you cannot remember exactly what caused you to develop a phobia, particularly if your phobia developed during childhood (or a long time ago) or your symptoms manifested slowly over time.

However, identifying the root cause of your phobia can be extremely advantageous, as it can help you to address your initial triggers and any negative patterns of thought or negative feelings that are attached to the initial onset of your phobia. This can make it easier to treat your phobia and for you to develop effective coping strategies. Being aware of the cause of your fear of plants can make it easier for you to manage your phobia.

There are multiple possible causes of botanophobia, and the causes may be environmental, psychological or genetic.

Some of the most common causes of botanophobia include:

  • A negative, traumatic or scary experience involving plants
    This is the most common cause of phobias and is also known as a direct learning experience or traumatic conditioning. The event that caused the traumatic conditioning may not actually have involved real danger or a real risk. However, as long as the individual experiences significant fear, distress or trauma, this can lead to the development of a phobia. Examples of potentially traumatic experiences include being stung or stabbed by plants such as nettles or a cactus, experiencing a bad case of poison ivy or becoming tangled in or feeling restrained by a plant, such as weeds. Following the traumatic experience, the individual may begin to have intrusive and negative thoughts or memories of the trauma and begin to avoid trauma-related triggers, for example, by avoiding places and situations where they may encounter plants. This can cause the fear or anxiety they felt at the time of the experience to linger or worsen.
  • Negative depictions of plants
    Exposure to negative portrayals of plants could result in a phobia, particularly if the exposure occurred during childhood or during a vulnerable or stressful time in your life. Although plants are generally portrayed positively, there are multiple examples of films where plants are portrayed as killers or man-eaters, such as Little Shop of Horrors or Annihilation. Many dystopian movies or science fiction disaster movies often show plants overgrowing and taking over towns and cities around the world. Exposure to these negative portrayals can cause someone to view plants as being dangerous and can contribute to someone developing a phobia.
  • Associating plants with death
    Plants, in particular flowers, are often used to commemorate a death and are often seen at funerals and in cemeteries. This can cause someone to develop a negative association between plants and death which causes them to feel dread or anxiety every time they see plants. This can then develop into botanophobia.
  • Having an allergy to plants
    Someone who has a plant allergy, such as hay fever, may also experience botanophobia because they fear that being close to plants will result in an allergic reaction. This is even more likely if you have a severe phobia that could result in anaphylactic shock or if your allergy causes symptoms that result in stress or embarrassment, such as hives or red, puffy eyes. If you were taught that plants pose a risk to you or could be dangerous because of your allergy, this is more likely to result in a phobia, particularly if you were taught to avoid plants from a young age.
  • Fear rumination
    Fear rumination is a common cause of phobias and usually occurs following a negative or traumatic experience involving plants or if you were exposed to frightening portrayals of plants. Fear rumination occurs when you engage in a repetitive negative thought process and persistently and repetitively recap a traumatic, scary, negative or painful experience or portrayal of plants. Over time, these thoughts and memories can become increasingly upsetting and intrusive and can make you remember the experience as being more negative or scary than it was in reality. Fear rumination reinforces your natural fear responses, creates additional anxiety and can result in you developing botanophobia.
  • A learned phobia
    A phobia can develop because of an observational learning experience, meaning you observed a fear of plants in another person, and you then learnt to fear them yourself or to associate them with fear, pain or danger. You are more likely to learn a phobia if you are exposed to it during childhood or adolescence. For example, children who grow up with a close family member, such as a parent or sibling, with botanophobia are more likely to develop the condition themselves. However, a learned phobia can also develop during adulthood.
  • Superstitions or negative cultural beliefs
    There are multiple negative superstitions and cultural beliefs relating to plants that are often passed down within families or certain cultures. This can include superstitions about certain plants being bad luck, mushrooms creating fairy rings designed to trap people and certain plants indicating that a death will soon occur. Some plants are also associated with witches, demons and other magical beings. The negative representations and the negative connotations people learn to associate with plants can cause someone to think of them as dangerous, evil, magical or scary. This can then develop into botanophobia.
  • An informational learning experience
    Being exposed to information about plants that scares you or creates feelings of anxiety can result in you developing fear or anxiety surrounding plants which can then develop into botanophobia. For example, learning facts about the number of plants that are poisonous or toxic to humans or information about carnivorous plants such as the Venus flytrap can cause someone to develop a phobia of plants.
  • Experiencing significant stress
    Significant, long-term stress can result in a disproportionate fear response or an inability to manage intense situations. This can make it more likely that you will develop a phobia, such as botanophobia, particularly if you have a negative experience with a plant or are exposed to the fear of plants while you are experiencing higher levels of stress. A stressful and distressing event, such as a death can also trigger a phobia, as people may be less able to manage their emotions and thought processes when experiencing grief, and this can result in a disproportionate fear response.
Suffering from hay fever

How is botanophobia diagnosed?

If you think you might be experiencing botanophobia, your first step will be to visit your GP. Many people who fear plants aren’t sure whether their symptoms are severe enough to qualify as a phobia.

If you are unsure, consider whether your fear of plants includes:

  • Fear, anxiety or panic that are out of proportion to the actual risks.
  • Fear that impacts your ability to function in your everyday life or in certain situations.
  • Thoughts and feelings surrounding plants that negatively impact your quality of life, your mental health or your well-being.
  • Symptoms that occur when faced with your triggers or when thinking about plants.
  • Fear or anxiety that results in avoidance behaviours.

If your symptoms correspond with the symptoms of botanophobia, make an appointment with your GP. Your GP will refer you to a psychologist or phobia specialist who will look at your symptoms in more detail.

To determine whether you are experiencing botanophobia, your GP and the psychologist will ask questions about your fear of plants concerning:

  • The symptoms you have experienced, including what your symptoms are, how frequently they occur and how severe they are.
  • The initial onset of your symptoms, including when they began and what initially triggered your fear of plants.
  • Your medical history, including any anxiety disorders, panic disorders, phobias or other mental health conditions you have experienced or are currently experiencing.
  • Any medication or supplements you take (to ensure that your symptoms cannot be attributed to another source).
  • Whether you have a family history of phobias.
  • How much your fear interferes with your day-to-day life, your well-being and your behaviour.

During your appointment, the psychologist will conduct a phobia questionnaire. Because botanophobia is a type of specific phobia, to diagnose you with botanophobia, the psychologist will compare your symptoms to the diagnostic criteria for specific phobias.

Your symptoms will need to correlate with the seven key criteria listed below, as set out in the diagnostic criteria.

1. The fear must be persistent, excessive and unreasonable. It can occur either when plants are present or when they are not present.

2. Exposure to plants or another trigger leads to an immediate anxiety response in the majority of situations.

3. The fear is excessive and disproportionate to the threat, and this is recognised by the individual.

4. The individual avoids places or situations where plants could be present. If a plant is present, the individual will experience extreme fear, anxiety or distress.

5. The anticipation of encountering plants and the avoidance behaviours associated with avoiding their triggers can have a significant impact on the individual’s day-to-day life.

6. The fear has lasted for a minimum of six months.

7. The phobia is not associated with another disorder or mental health condition.

If your symptoms fit these diagnostic criteria, you will receive a diagnosis of botanophobia. Depending on the severity of your phobia, treatment may be recommended.

How is botanophobia treated?

There are multiple effective treatment options available for botanophobia. However, not all phobias require treatment. If your symptoms are minor or don’t impact on your everyday life or well-being, or you have implemented effective coping strategies, treatment may not be required. However, you should still discuss your treatment options with your GP or psychologist before making a decision regarding treatment.

If your symptoms occur frequently or are severe, if your fear causes avoidance behaviours or impacts your day-to-day life and well-being or if coping strategies have proved ineffective, treatment will likely be recommended.

As multiple treatments are available, the psychologist will create an individualised treatment plan based on several factors. Your treatment plan will be designed to successfully treat the cause of your phobia, your symptoms and any negative thoughts and feelings connected to your phobia.

When creating your treatment plan, the psychologist will consider:

  • The severity of your symptoms.
  • The frequency of your symptoms.
  • The root cause of your phobia.
  • How significantly your phobia impacts your life.
  • Your overall health and well-being, including your mental health.

The most common treatments for botanophobia are:

Exposure Therapy:

A type of psychotherapy called exposure therapy, or systematic desensitisation, involves slowly exposing yourself to your triggers in a controlled and safe environment. Initially, you will be exposed to those triggers that create the least amount of anxiety. Then, once you are comfortable with this level of exposure, you can move on to the next trigger, gradually building up to the most anxiety-provoking situations.

For example, you may begin by remembering a previous encounter with plants or talking about plants. You may then move on to watching a video of a plant growing or holding artificial plants or vegetables. The aim is that you will eventually be able to be close to a plant or touch a plant without experiencing a phobic response.

By creating realistic thoughts and beliefs surrounding plants, unlearning negative associations and patterns of thought, decreasing negative reactions and feelings to plants long term, and learning relaxation techniques and coping and calming strategies, exposure therapy can help you overcome your phobia.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT):

Talk therapy, or CBT, is a popular type of psychotherapy. The objective of cognitive behavioural therapy is to help you identify and explore the underlying causes of your phobia and to change your thoughts, feelings and behaviours regarding plants. Negative thoughts about plants are deconstructed into smaller fragments, which are then addressed individually.

CBT sessions will focus on the root cause of your plant phobia as well as any existing negative thought patterns. Your negative reaction to plants and other triggers can be eliminated or reduced by this method, thereby reducing your psychological and physiological responses to them.

During your CBT sessions, you will:

  • Discuss your triggers and symptoms.
  • Explore what caused your fear of plants.
  • Explore your fears in more depth.
  • Learn how to recognise your negative thoughts and change the way you are thinking.
  • Learn coping strategies and calming strategies, such as deep breathing exercises, distraction techniques and coping statements.

Clinical Hypnotherapy:

With clinical hypnotherapy, you can overcome negative thoughts and feelings about plants. In order to change your perception of plants, the hypnotherapist will use a combination of guided relaxation techniques and focused attention. During the discussions centred around your fear of plants, you will be placed in a deeply relaxed state.

During the sessions, the hypnotherapist will work with you to identify any negative thought patterns, memories, feelings or behaviours that may be contributing to your phobia. In addition to teaching you calming strategies, such as deep breathing and relaxation techniques, your hypnotherapist will also teach you coping strategies.


Medication is not commonly used as the sole treatment option for botanophobia. However, it may be offered in conjunction with other treatments, such as psychotherapy, particularly if you experience another mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression, alongside your phobia.

In this situation, some medications that may be offered, include:

  • Beta blockers.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
  • Sedatives.
  • Anti-anxiety medication.
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About the author

Nicole Murphy

Nicole Murphy

Nicole graduated with a First-Class Honours degree in Psychology in 2013. She works as a writer and editor and tries to combine all her passions - writing, education, and psychology. Outside of work, Nicole loves to travel, go to the beach, and drink a lot of coffee! She is currently training to climb Machu Picchu in Peru.

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