X is for Xenophobia


Xenophobia gets a bad name from those who fail to understand is it not racism. Racism is based solely on ancestry, race and ethnicity. Xenophobia is far more and many times far less. It includes the strange and the different. What do you know about xenophobia?


Xenos is the Greek word for stranger and foreigner. Phobos is the Greek word for fear. Xenophobia is the fear of foreigners, strangers or things which are foreign or strange. Some of the criteria xenophobes use to judge which groups of people as foreign or strange are:

  • Age
  • Culture or subculture
  • Disability
  • Dress
  • Habits
  • Language
  • Music choices
  • Occupation
  • Orientation
  • Personal or political beliefs
  • Physical features
  • Religion
  • Weight

By far, this is not an exhaustive list of criteria to establish someone is foreign to the xenophobe. Xenophobes believe alien (different from them) groups of are not acceptable to society. In most cases, the distaste for the target groups is not supported by the societies they believe should shun the groups.

The disorder is generally associated with one of four causes:

Conditioning and Imitation: These xenophobes are brought up to distrust or fear alien groups. Either from the use of propaganda or through norms exhibited by those close to them or through their societies, they are convinced their fears are normal. Xenophobic cultures often practice isolationism, which fosters greater xenophobia.

Organic: Occasionally, xenophobes develop the disorder without a definitive precipitating event. Symptoms and behavior simply evolve without the patient being able to identify why and often without being able to admit it is a fear. In many cases, the person presents rational and analytical reasons for the aversion.

PTSD: Post-traumatic stress disorder can manifest xenophobia. Victims of and witnesses to crimes and war can develop a distaste and distrust of people who resemble the criminals and combatants in their experience. The similarities can be anything from eye color to sex to the scent of cologne.

Psychological Immune System: Humans, and all other animals, exhibit avoidance behaviors and distrust of others they believe to be diseased. Xenophobes will often distance themselves from others for fear of contracting a disease or being indoctrinated. This is different from mysophobia because xenophobes can consider obesity, stuttering, homosexuality and dyspraxia as diseases they can contract.


Not a chance. Xenophobes will go out of their way to avoid their target alien groups. When forced into contact with someone within the group, they will avert their gazes, refuse to touch (shake hands) and, in extreme cases, flee.

Beyond not being social, xenophobes will attempt to convince others their fears are reasonable, justified and sustainable. They seek out others who have biases against their target groups and support causes which promote the exclusion of their alien groups.

The choice of supporters and causes to support often fails the endorsement test. For instance, a xenophobe may support an animal shelter as a strike against pet-less people because those without pets show a lack of humanity. This xenophobe believes society should be held to a higher level of animal consciousness.

Some xenophobes choose a superiority complex when it comes to their alien groups. A xenophobe could believe he is better than a person who smokes because he is tobacco-free or even a former smoker. He may go so far as to post insulting and hateful media about tobacco users on social networks or in his home.


When large groups of xenophobes congregate, their gifts are not what one would want to receive as a housewarming present. The most profound example of xenophobic behavior was Kristallnacht in Nazi Germany and Austria on 9-10 November 1938. The pogrom ended with 91 Jews killed, over 30,000 incarcerated in concentration camps, more than 7,000 Jewish business burned or destroyed and more than 1,000 synagogues burnt.

Terms like ethnic cleansing, pogrom and genocide are associated with xenophobic cultures. Examples extend well into the 21st century, including the current ethnic cleansing of Iraqi Christians. Although they only represent 5% of the Iraqi population, they represent more than 40% of the Iraqi refugees living in neighboring countries.


The bottom line on xenophobes is they believe their alien groups threaten them, their lifestyles or belief systems. They suffer physical and emotional symptoms, such as anxiety, increased blood pressure and heart rate, sweating, dry mouth, anger, terror and others, when coming in contact with their alien groups.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Treatments for xenophobia, as with most phobias, include:

There is no pharmacological or natural medicinal treatment for xenophobia.

Because of the diverse number of triggers, statistics on actual rates of incidence are inconsistent, where they are available at all. Xenophobia can be masked by other disorders, such as bipolar disorder, adult-onset ADHD and depression, as well as other phobias.

Many statistics exist on xenophobic acts which are often based on racism and not xenophobia. Not all xenophobes participate in aggressive or violent behavior, as most prefer avoidance techniques to confrontation.


Do things and people different from you cause anxiety or fear? How many of the xenophobic criteria did you know? Have you ever known a xenophobe? 

If you tweet or +1 this post, please use the hashtag #AtoZChallenge!

(c) Red Dwyer 2012
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  1. Thanks Red. I really needed confirmation on the fact that maybe I’m not such a bad guy after all. Lately I have been caught in the cross-hairs of a xenophobe. They don’t think that I’m a positive care-giver for children. I am a smoker. And who knows what else. Oh yeh, they want me shunned from the church. How rude is that? Oh well, God Bless You, Grant

    • Red

       /  April 27, 2012

      In my experience, and indeed in the charters of religions, churches are communities who embrace everyone. However, most religions, especially Judaic and Muslim religions, expect congregants to adhere to scriptural teachings, especially when they are in a position to represent the church/temple/mosque. I have seen churches issue ultimatums for congregants. For example, if you do not (stop robbing the poor box, lying, cheating the public), you may not come back to the congregation. This is not shunning. This is shepherding the flock. This is educating and expecting the followers to actually walk the walk.

  2. This was a wonderfully done definition and treatment of Xenophobia Red. I think sometimes we use the term to loosely in the US to mask or make light of some of the underlying issues of this nation when in fact, Xenophobia has some broader meanings.
    valentinelogar recently posted..Sunshine DaysMy Profile

    • Red

       /  April 27, 2012

      It is as complex as OCD. There are so many manifestations of it I had a difficult time choosing examples, as each was more unusual and unexpected than the next. What is ironic? One of the manifestations of xenophobia is the use of layover words (from other languages) or incorrect usages of words colloquially.

  3. I think anyone who isn’t short and fuzzy is kind of weird, but I try not to hold that against them. It’s not their fault they have inferior DNA.
    Binky recently posted..Genealogy and The Study of GeniesMy Profile

  4. Unfortunately there are always going to be these types of people around and adding a label to them is just as crazy as the thought processes that make up the chemistry of same…

    In my opinion it is just
    ridiculous to the extreme…

    A nicely added posting for ‘X’ though Red 🙂

    Androgoth XXx

    • Red

       /  April 27, 2012

      The individuals are not so bad, but when a herd of them gets together, it is dangerous.

  5. Number two gets my vote! 🙂

    Given my responses are created by experience, seriously bad experiences over a period of years, I am now obsessively afraid of kids, so is it PTSD, or Xenophobia?

    The only good news is that I am no longer a target for repeated abuse, although I am sometimes a target of the local kids mischief – there IS a difference – but this is minor in comparison to what I have experienced in the past.

    Love and hugs!

    prenin recently posted..Friday – A trip to the Co-OpMy Profile

    • Red

       /  April 29, 2012

      It really is PTSD. The fear you have of children is the fear you will be put in a situation to repeat the abuse. So, it is not so much a fear of those younger than you as it is a fear of the situation which can only be created with children. You are very right…there is a difference. {HUGZ} Red.

  6. This was something new to me. I have seen it in action I just did not know the word for it, or that there was even a word for it. I guess I am a little confused to how it can be masked by such disorders as bipolar, ADHD etc. I bet you knew I was going to ask about that? 🙂 Is there a way you could offer me an example? I would like to understand it.

    Weird alien scary way of thinking that it is I wouldn’t want to be in the same room… heh heh just KIDDING 🙂
    Lizzie Cracked recently posted..Trifecta – Weekend Challenge, 3 Points of ViewMy Profile

    • Red

       /  April 29, 2012

      The reason disorders which affect attention mask xenophobia is they create an unease with groups of people based on sensitivity to other things (not just difference from patient). People with ADHD tend not to like (and stay away from) those who are long-winded, over technical or whose topic is on the short attention list. People with BPD can have aversions to people who remind them of precipitating events or who hasten the slide. While both examples are plausible, they can both mask that the real reason these people are avoided is one of the xenophobic criteria.

      To determine whether or not xenophobia is present, you would have to look at the aggregate of all people avoided to see what similarity they have. Does that help?

  7. Red, this is very good coverage of this topic..well done. Now if we could get every individual in society to understand it. Great job on this!

    Xenophobes are everywhere. I better pay attention, I have already noticed people having meetings and huddling in groups to whisper about devious stuff. Religious fanatics and extremists of all kinds are equally guilty of huddling and whispering stuff. “:)
    Raymond Alexander Kukkee recently posted..Y is for YellowMy Profile

    • Red

       /  April 29, 2012

      It is the groups that I find the most bizarre. Yes, the individuals have some seriously far removed from reality ideas, but the ones which group together are the ones I call first thinkers. These are people who sincerely cannot give something a second thought because they have never given it the first think. Shame of it all? It is not brainwashing. Mostly, it is just laziness.

  8. Hi I came here from Deb’s Blog where she wrote a post about you…and she is so right this is my first visit and i am definitely going to come for more.
    Xenophobia…todays world where fear, anxiety and rage rules and cultural and religious differences lead to violence, i think every one is a little xenophobic and as they say too much of anything can be destructive.and a lot of people are taking advantage of this fear to ridicule or shun people or other faiths and beliefs..
    you see someone who doesnt “belong” and immidiately your thoughts start running in all directions ..
    A very thought provoking write up 🙂
    Soma Mukherjee recently posted..Dance to the music of lifeMy Profile

    • Red

       /  April 29, 2012

      And I am so very glad you did! Feel free to click around. The spots under the header will take you to the features and the Map will take you to interest groups or the A to Z.

      There are a lot of people who are using xenophobia as an excuse for really bad behavior, especially in the name of culture and religion. Where the big problem with it is the stereotyping which follows. Just because Joe, who is a pole vaulter, makes you uncomfortable does not mean you should fear all pole vaulters.

      Hope you find some more things of interest! Drop by The Green Room (top menu bar) and leave a link to your blog so the M3 Readers can find you!

  9. Well we both did a blog post on Xenophobia on the X day.

    Yours is so in depth, great research and post.
    Great to visit you via the a to Z challenge.

    • Red

       /  April 29, 2012

      Glad you stopped by! You are more than welcome, even after the challenge! Stop by the Green Room (link in the top menu bar) and leave a link to your blog so the M3 Readers can find you!

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