on the term “panphobia” and the claim that it’s ableist to use for pan hate
recently people started accusing pan folks of ableism for using the term “panphobia” for pan hate, claiming it’s a medical disorder. the only source i’ve seen provided from them is the literal first thing on google when you search “panphobia”, which is a wikia page with no sources.
(the wikia page lists all the phobias that woody allen has to back the claim that he has “panphobia”, but that’s not what “panphobia” in this context even means; when it was used in this way, it was a phobia of its own, not a term for having a lot of specific phobias.)
the wikia page also links to wikipedia, which states “panphobia is not registered as a type of phobia in medical references” and “pantophobia may actually be considered the more accurate name to describe the non-specificity associated with a fear of all.”
their one “source” doesn’t even support their argument. sound familiar? now, let’s dive into the history of the “fear of everything”, shall we? the “fear of everything” has had many terms throughout history, such as panophobia, pantophobia, panaphobia, pantaphobia, panphobia, neurasthenia, anxiety neurosis, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.
“pantophobia”, “pantaphobia”, and “panaphobia” were the more commonly used medical terms until the early 20th century. “panophobia” and “panphobia” were also used, but less so and argued to be not as accurate as others. they were first employed by fifth century physician caelius aurelianus, “alluding to patients who supposedly were afraid of everything”.
nosologie methodique vol. 7 (1772) divided mental disorders into four orders. “panophobia” was in “morositates” and was the main disorder dealing with anxiety. There were subtypes of panophobia, one similar to generalized anxiety disorder, which included avoidance, pain, and tension due to extreme worry.
the physiognomy of mental diseases (1840) defined “panaphobia” as a “dread of everything” or “vague and undefined terror”. a portrait was captioned, “a female, in whom delusive fear of every object and person, panaphobia, keeps her in a state of perpetual distress”.
the psychology of the emotions (1897) defined “panphobia, or pantophobia” as a “vague but permanent state of anxiety or terror. a state in which the patient fears everything or nothing, where anxiety floats as in a dream, and only becomes fixed for an instant at a time.”
and in 1917, devaux and logre argued that “pantophobia” is a more accurate term than “panophobia”, as the latter could be interpreted as referring to the god pan.
the diagnostic term “neurasthenia”, no longer in the dsm and popular well into the 20th century, included most symptoms of anxiety. a practical treatise on neurasthenia (1905) stated “pantophobia/fear of everything” is a common symptom of “neurasthenia/nervous exhaustion”.
“anxiety neurosis” was a criticized effort to detach a particular syndrome from “neurasthenia”. including symptoms such as irritability, anxious expectation, anxiety attacks, and phobias, it was the precursor to generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.
in dsm-i (1952), “anxiety reaction” was characterized by “anxious expectation and frequently associated with somatic symptomatology”, differentiated from normal apprehensiveness/fear. it was diagnosed when anxiety was diffuse and not restricted to definite situations or objects. in dsm-ii (1968), the diagnostic category “anxiety neurosis” was characterized by “anxious over-concern extending to panic and frequently associated with somatic symptoms”. and in dsm-iii (1980), “anxiety neurosis” was split into generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.
“panphobia” is an outdated term for gad/pd. even when it was used, it was seldom used because there were several similar terms determined more accurate, all of which were replaced and eventually evolved into gad/pd.
the claim of ableism due to using “panphobia” is as weak and poorly researched as every other argument made against pansexuality/pan people. that’s what happens when people prioritize being—wait for it—panphobic over being factually, historically correct.
and yes, words can mean more than one thing. so even if “panphobia” was still used as a medical term, that wouldn’t mean it couldn’t be used for pan hate, too. also, using “phobia” for any queer hate has been criticized for at least a decade. so if the people arguing against “panphobia” truly cared about ableism, they wouldn’t be only arguing against “panphobia”. and they wouldn’t be ignoring all the people with gad/pd addressing this.
- Nosologie methodique Vol. 7 by François Boissier de Sauvages, 1772
- The Physiognomy of Mental Diseases by Alexander Morison, 1840
- The Psychology of the Emotions by Théodule Ribot, 1897
- A Practical Treatise on Nervous Exhaustion (Neurasthenia) by George Miller Beard and Alphonso David Rockwell, 1905
- Anxiety Disorders: A Conceptual History by G. Berrios, 1999
Overview and Clinical Presentation of Generalized Anxiety Disorder by K. Rickels and M. Rynn, 2001
- Historical Inquiry into the Appropriateness of ‘Panic Disorder’ by Papakostas, Eftychiadis, & Christodoulou, 2003
- History of Generalized Anxiety Disorder as a Diagnostic Category by Marc-Antoine Crocq, 2017
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Anxiety Symptoms in Older Adults by Johan Nilsson, 2019
also, i made a twitter thread of this post if you’re into that.