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Xenophobia : Types, Causes, Signs, Impact and How to Combat Xenophobia

What is Xenophobia?

Xenophobia is a feeling of dislike, hatred, or fear of others. It can also manifest into hostility toward immigrants and hatred for people of other tribes, cultures, or religions.

A person with xenophobia may not distrust others due to any religion or culture but the discrimination is purely based on a person’s race or ethnicity.

Xenophobia is not a medical diagnosis. True phobias such as arachnophobia and agoraphobia are types of anxiety disorders. They lead to symptoms affecting the quality of life and can be treated medically.

Xenophobia is a combination of a range of aggressive, fearful, and hostile beliefs. It not only affects the person who holds these beliefs but also the ones who are the target of them. These include:

  • Refugees
  • Immigrants
  • Religious minorities
  • People of different cultures

Types of Xenophobia

Xenophobia is of two types:

  1. Immigrant Xenophobia: It is the dislike for people who are perceived to be immigrants.
  2. Cultural Xenophobia: It is developing hostility towards people of other cultures.

Xenophobia can also be implicit and explicit.

In implicit xenophobia, a person may have anti-outsider views they may not be aware of. It affects their behavior in a subtle or unintentional way.

In explicit xenophobia, a person may hold conscious anti-outsider views.

What Causes Xenophobia?

Xenophobia is keeping certain groups in power and disempowering others. Many times, people engage themselves in xenophobia intentionally for their own gains. The following things motivate them to do so.

  • Power: Xenophobia is used by political leaders to get votes.(1) They create an in-group and an out-group and create an illusion of immunity in the dominant group.
  • Insecurity: Studies suggest insecurity plays a role in xenophobia.(2) When a person or a group feels having less access to resources or are in danger, they would want someone to blame. This may lead to xenophobic violence.
  • Greed: Xenophobia can arise as a result of greed.
  • Other Prejudice: Xenophobia can also be a result of racism, Islamophobia, and other forms of oppression.

Other factors that may contribute to Xenophobia include:

  • Lack of Diversity: People from areas with low diversity may feel unsure about the people who seem different from them. They may be a rise of in-group versus out-group feelings.
  • Education: Sometimes schools do not teach the students about or avoid discussing certain cultures or people of certain backgrounds. This may encourage xenophobia.
  • Fear of Stranger: It is believed by experts that xenophobia may lead to fear of strangers.

Signs of Xenophobia

A person with xenophobia may show the following signs:

  • They may show distrust or disgust for the people who are perceived as outsiders.
  • They may have disgust and distrust towards a certain type of music, food, and related cultures.
  • They may avoid interacting with outsiders
  • They may blame the perceived outsiders for any local problem
  • They may feel that the perceived outsiders behave, live, or feel differently from the non-outsiders
  • They may also treat the perceived outsiders as dangerous

Impact of Xenophobia

Xenophobia does not affect at an individual level. It may affect the entire society, economics, cultural attitudes, and politics. It may be linked to the following:(3)

  • Isolation
  • Discrimination
  • Hate crimes
  • Hostility towards people of different background
  • Decrease in social and economic opportunity
  • Wars
  • Political positions
  • Controversial policies

Xenophobia may have an insidious effect on individuals and society. These attitudes can make it more difficult for people of different groups to live within a society.

Xenophobia has the potential to do much more damage than only affecting the lives of people holding this attitude.

How to Combat Xenophobia?

Those struggling with feelings of xenophobia can practice the following to overcome this attitude.

  • Broaden Experience: Most people with xenophobia have lived a sheltered life with a fixed exposure. This makes them develop opinions against people different from them. Traveling to different places and meeting new people of varied cultures can be helpful in getting rid of this attitude.
  • Fight Your Own Fear: If you have not been exposed to different cultures or religions, developing an interest in knowing about them can be helpful in conquering the fear of them.
  • Pay Attention: Making an effort to get rid of xenophobic thoughts when they arise can be helpful in fighting against them.

Xenophobia is fear, distrust, and hatred toward perceived outsiders. It is not a phobia but a feeling of prejudice and discrimination. It impacts the lives of those with this attitude as well as those towards whom this attitude is displayed.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 10, 2022

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