There are several phobias that people all around the world can suffer from. One such phobia is Philophobia. What is Philophobia? Philophobia, or fear of falling in love, can make it difficult to have fulfilling intimate relationships.
It may be normal to have some anxiety surrounding relationships, but for those with a phobia of love, the anxiety can be intense and get in the way of daily life. Read on to learn about the fear of falling in love, including what causes philophobia and signs of philophobia.
What is philophobia?
Philophobia is a term that describes the fear of falling in love or developing close emotional relationships. It aligns well with the definition for specific phobias, which are legitimate mental health conditions in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
What is philophobia? To receive a diagnosis of a specific phobia, a person must display significant anxiety in response to an object or a situation.
Philophobia itself may not be a specific diagnosis. Still, someone who has a fear of falling in love tends to display symptoms similar to those seen with a specific phobia.
In the case of philophobia, a person is fearful of the situation of falling in love and/or becoming close to other people. This fear leads to difficulty functioning in social settings, such as during romantic encounters, and can cause a person to avoid intimate relationships altogether.
When a person is afraid of falling in love, they will probably display some noticeable philophobia symptoms, both physical and psychological.
Consider the symptoms below:
Physical symptoms- Sometimes, the anxiety or fear that comes with philophobia can manifest in the form of physical symptoms, such as:
Rapid heart rate
Gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea or upset stomach
Unsteadiness of the feet, or a feeling of shaking or trembling
Psychological symptoms– When you think of a phobia or fear, psychological symptoms probably come to mind. These can include:
Feeling anxious when thinking about love
Avoidance of close relationships
Difficulty functioning when thinking of love or relationships
Feeling a sense of being in danger when in romantic relationships
Having a feeling of fear that is out of proportion with the danger of the situation, such as becoming hysterically fearful over saying, “I love you” to a partner
The symptoms above may become more apparent when a person is in a situation that requires them to be intimate with other people, such as during dates with a significant other or when discussing personal information or romantic relationships with friends.
If you’re wondering, “Is it normal to be scared when falling in love?” you may also be curious about what causes philophobia. The reality is that some anxiety in romantic relationships is normal, but intense fear indicates some sort of problem or unresolved issue.
Here are some potential causes of philophobia:
When a person experiences significant trauma, such as abuse or a serious accident, they can come to believe that the world is not safe during childhood.
Suppose the trauma involves abuse from a caretaker or someone close to the child. In that case, they may learn to become distrustful, eventually leading to a phobia of falling in love during adulthood.
A 2018 study in the Journal of Trauma & Dissociation found that individuals who experienced greater childhood trauma, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect, were more likely to experience attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance, which is related to philophobia.
Someone fearful of love tends to demonstrate anxiety over becoming attached to others, and they may even avoid close attachments entirely.
Similar to the effects of childhood trauma, negative past experiences, such as deep pain from a previous relationship or the unexpected loss of a loved one, can lead people to show signs of philophobia.
The pain of past experiences may be so devastating that people attempt to avoid experiencing this type of pain again.
Sometimes, people may inherit a tendency to be fearful or anxious from their families. In fact, research shows that the heritability, or genetic basis, of social phobias, can be as high as 76%, although some studies show that it is as low as 13%.
Poor parental relationships
Psychologists believe that our early attachments with our parents shape the way we view relationships and continue to affect us throughout adulthood.
This means that fear of falling in love may arise from emotionally distant parents, or in some cases, from being raised by a mother who was overly anxious or who was not nurturing.
Other mental health issues
One study found that depression was a strong risk factor for phobias. In the case of philophobia, a person with depression may struggle with feelings of worthlessness and difficulty with decision making, which can lead them to be fearful of falling in love.
10 signs of philophobia
What is Philophobia, and what are its signs?
If you’re wondering if you are struggling with philophobia, consider the ten signs of philophobia below:
1. You struggle to open up to others
If you have philophobia, you may have friendships, but find that most of your conversations are surface-level because you are afraid of opening up, showing your vulnerabilities, and expressing your feelings.
With philophobia, you may be worried that friends or significant others will judge you poorly or abandon you if you open up to them.
2. You feel that you cannot trust other people
Part of falling in love is trusting your partner to stay faithful to you and not hurt you. If you have philophobia, you will likely find it extremely difficult to trust others in intimate relationships, and you may constantly question your partner’s intentions.
3. Committing to a relationship makes you feel trapped
If you have a phobia of falling in love, you may worry that committing to a serious relationship will mean that you are trapped and have to give up your freedom and identity.
4. Developing strong connections with other people makes you feel very uncomfortable
When you’re struggling with philophobia, you will set a limit on how close you allow yourself to get to other people because you are uncomfortable with connecting with people on an intimate level.
5. You have baggage from the past
If you have had troublesome relationships in the past, whether with family members or an abusive former partner, you may still be carrying around baggage from these relationships.
When you haven’t yet moved on from the past, you may be fearful of history repeating itself, which is a pretty clear sign of philophobia.
6. You do not enjoy discussing love or relationships
It is not uncommon for friends to talk about their romantic relationships, but you are likely to avoid all discussions of love and romance if you have philophobia.
7. You find yourself ignoring people after a few dates
Those who are philophobic are fearful of intimacy, so you may find that you begin to ignore phone calls and texts when you’ve gone on a few dates and worry that the relationship is progressing too far.
You are comfortable with physical intimacy but not emotional intimacy
When you fear falling in love, you may enjoy sex but find that you cannot open up to others emotionally. Physical intimacy is simply more comfortable for you because it doesn’t require you to be vulnerable.
You acknowledge that you’re afraid of getting your heart broken
If your reason for avoiding romantic relationships is that you don’t want to risk getting heartbroken, you have probably developed philophobia and haven’t addressed it.
You enjoy the single life
People who have philophobia may begin to enjoy single life because it doesn’t involve any risk. They can do what they want when they want, and they don’t have to worry about opening up to other people or being let down.
When you recognize that you have philophobia, it may be time to seek treatment, especially if you are unhappy with the way your relationships are going.
When you have so much fear surrounding love and intimate connection that it interferes with your social functioning in daily life, you likely have some legitimate mental health needs that could improve with treatment.
Cognitive behavior therapy
A type of therapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy may help treat philophobia. This type of therapy can help you to replace unhelpful thoughts with more balanced ways of thinking.
For instance, if you are convinced that opening up to a romantic partner will assuredly result in heartbreak, cognitive behavioral therapy can help you develop a different, less phobic perspective. This type of therapy has been found to be effective in treating social anxiety.
Exposure therapies can also be helpful for philophobia. With the help of a trained professional, you may face some of your fears, such as a fear of going on a date or revealing personal details of your life to a significant other or close friend.
People who experience significant depression or anxiety due to philophobia may also benefit from taking medications to treat their symptoms.
Antidepressant medications can help some people, whereas others may take beta-blockers or tranquilizing medications, which can calm the anxiety of philophobia.
Sometimes, people may need a combination of counseling and medication to overcome anxiety.
While there are specific types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and exposure therapies, that are useful for phobias like fear of falling in love, what is also helpful about therapy, regardless of the specific modality, is that it can help people with philophobia to identity, process, and overcome past issues like trauma or abusive relationships that have led to a phobia of love.
If someone in your life has philophobia, it may be frustrating, but you can support them by understanding that the fear of intimate relationships is very real. It may seem absurd to you, but in the life of someone with philophobia, symptoms can cause significant distress.
Here are some additional tips for supporting someone with social phobia:
Do not pressure them to do things they are not comfortable doing, such as sharing intimate details of their life, making philophobia even worse.
Ask how you can help them feel more comfortable with you.
Learn as much as you can about phobias so you can understand what they are experiencing.
Consider encouraging them to see help from a counselor or support group and help them to find resources to help them, if needed.
To know more about overcoming Philophobia, watch this video.
Philophobia can get in the way of experiencing satisfying relationships, as individuals who suffer from this fear have significant anxiety and stress surrounding romantic and intimate relationships.
They may fear getting close to people, sharing personal details, or forming romantic relationships because of past trauma and distrust of other people. Ultimately, philophobia leads to fear of falling in love and can cause a person to avoid close relationships altogether.
If you or someone in your life is living with this condition, counseling or therapy can help overcome symptoms and learn how to have fulfilling relationships.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker with a master's degree in social work from The Ohio State University, and she is in the process of completing her dissertation for a Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology. She has worked in the social work field for 8 years and is currently a professor at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. She writes website content about mental health, addiction, and fitness.
Licensed as both a social worker through Ohio Board of Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage/Family Therapists and school social worker through Ohio Department of Education as well as a personal trainer through American Council on Exercise.