The fear of poverty has an official name. It’s called Peniaphobia which is defined as “a fear of having no money or being poor”. This is not to be confused with Aporophobia which is a fear of and hostility to people who are poor, without resources and helpless.
For some Peniaphobia is an irrational fear of losing wealth or what they have and falling into poverty. Alternatively, for others it could be a fear of falling deeper into poverty. In both cases the fear is real – no matter how unlikely either of these eventualities actually are this intense anxiety can be totally life-changing.
Someone suffering from Peniaphobia may be in complete control of their finances, recognise their personal situation and work within their means at all times, they may be fully aware of the economic conditions, budget well, have a nest egg and know, deep down that they have the capabilities to handle whatever life throws at you. In spite of all this a totally irrational and crippling fear of poverty in the future affects all aspects of their life and their ability to make the most of life in the here and now.
As with any such fear or phobia though … it CAN be overcome!
I always find it fascinating putting writing content for this site. My intention is always to provide a little support to those who need it, give them a little more belief in themselves and link them to treatment options. As I re-write this particular feature in order to give it a bit more clarity I’ve just realised that I myself need to beat this fear of poverty … I hadn’t realised before but Peniaphobia is actually an issue that I need to resolve too. So … I’m totally with you on this one!
If you know what it’s like to have nothing and have struggled with debt in the past but now find yourself in a comfortable position then it’s completely natural to want to preserve and maintain your standard of life. So you take steps to plan and budget, tuck some away “just in case” and save and invest for the future because you want to make sure you’re never going to want again in the future. These feelings are completely normal and actually quite healthy and result in positive steps. Peniaphobia is very different though. You may have plenty of money, all the possessions you need, a more than adequate nest egg, no debt, plenty of money coming in to maintain your standard of life and to continue to save for the future. However, instead of enjoying this enviable position and making the most of this abundance, a Peniaphobe will develop an extreme anxiety of losing all they have and moving into poverty. This means they completely forget about and ignore their current financial position and instead focus intensely on potentially losing it all in the future.
It goes way, way beyond the desire to protect a healthy financial position – it’s almost a paranoia that their going to lose it all and therefore they must take every step they possibly can to protect their bubble. They need to spend less and less, cut their outgoings in any way they can, they will often become hoarders (for example bulk buying food at wholesale prices to save money), they will eliminate all non-essential spending meaning holidays, social events etc become a thing of the past and they will skimp on affordable luxuries that will improve their standard of life. In other words they will get no pleasure or benefit from their healthy financial position – they will simply fear losing it all and future poverty and their life will suffer massively as a result of this fear of poverty.
To summarise; To anyone suffering from Peniaphobia the fear of poverty is incredibly intense, consistent and all-consuming. They find it difficult to let go of money or possessions and have a tendency to hoard. They may panic when they perceive things to run low and hide or protect possessions. Peniaphobics may refrain from buying things they need – even when they’re easily affordable. Basically, a peniaphobe could have all the money in the world and still want to hide it away and not spend anything … just in case!
The fear of poverty can affect anyone at any time. That said, it’s particularly common in people who have just come into some money, who have landed a game-changing business deal or those who are starting to change their financial situation and to succeed in life. In a way it’s a fear of going back to the way it was for them before. They’re beginning to enjoy a life of abundance and don’t want it to ever end.
When you put it that way it sounds pretty normal doesn’t it? In most cases it probably is! No one wants to lose what they have and it’s completely natural to protect what they’ve got and want to carefully manage and plan for the future.
As we’ve explained above, for anyone suffering from a fear of poverty it’s different though – it consumes thoughts and prevents any enjoyment of life.
Peniaphobia is no different to any other specific fear is as much as there is no one specific cause and each case is different. It is likely to have developed over time and stemmed from either;
As with any phobia the symptoms of a fear of poverty can be intense. Extreme anxiety, panic and dread are the norm. They’re consistent too – occupying thoughts all the time and not just in waves.
Panic attacks, shortness of breath, perspiration, flushes, irregular pulse, nausea, insomnia etc etc. Whilst totally irrational, none of these symptoms are uncommon.
The sufferer effectively plays out a starring role in a nightmare about how terrible life would be if everything was lost. And the nightmare is with them constantly and never ends.
The result … a paranoid protection of what they have rather than making the most of life by taking advantage of the financial situation. There’s no purpose or meaning to life except to protect everything they have. It’s therefore life-changing.
A fear of poverty is not one of the more common phobias. There are an unlimited number of specific fears and phobias and so, because this is not one you hear about that frequently, there is very little specific data as to the numbers of sufferers and the effects of this condition. A lack of Peniaphobia facts and data doesn’t mean the condition isn’t real though … it is!
It should not be confused with Aporophobia which, as defined by Wikipedia, is fear, disgust and hostility towards poor people and those in poverty.
Be sensible, budget, save, tuck some money away and plan for the future for sure. This is completely normal and natural. But enjoy everything you have. Live well, help others, experience amazing things, visit incredible places, meet new people, experience different cultures and grow as a person as a result of all this. Plan ahead? Yes … but make the most of what you’ve got now. Enjoy life and the abundance you have.
If you find this difficult to do because of a fear of poverty then that’s when you should seek help. Ask yourself if you can bring yourself to live like I’ve outlined above. Be honest and if the answer’s no then you need to take action and seek help. Life will suddenly get SO much better!
You may want to consider hypnotherapy as a treatment for Peniaphobia. It works by reprogramming the subconscious mind to react in a different, more rational and sensible way, to your thoughts about money, wealth and poverty. It basically re-sets it back to the way it was when you came into this world and before it became unduly affected by some event or influencer in your past life. Don’t write it off – it can prove highly effective. Find Out More >
Face to face talking therapy, in particularly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT as it’s better known, is the number one treatment for any form of phobia. And the fear of poverty is no different. It waorks by talking about your fears, your thoughts relating to the fear, your beliefs amd attitudes and how they currently influence your behaviour towards money. It then looks to change the way you look at poverty in order to result in different feelings, and actions to the thought of money and poverty. Find Out More >
If the mere thought of poverty fills you with fear and terror then take a look at one of our recommended, self-help treatment programs that are all guaranteed, proven and effective.