Gamophobia or the fear of commitment is a specific phobia that primarily causes a person to have a persistent and irrational fear of committing to marriage or a romantic relationship.
People with specific phobias avoid places, objects or situations they deem to be a threat even when no obvious danger or threat exists. Even the mere thought of commitment is enough to trigger the phobia. In extreme cases, gamophobes avoid committing to any relationship situation, e.g., dating, that can lead commitment.
Regarding marriage, it is more than “cold feet;” it is a dreaded fear of being committed to one person for life. Commitment-phobes tend to avoid anything marriage-related, such as weddings or engagement ceremonies. They typically remain single and prefer to remain in open-ended ‘relationships’ void of commitment.
Individuals with gamophobia are similar in nature to those with an avoidant attachment disorder who fear intimacy. Therefore, they are unable to emotionally connect to their partners or even commit. The difference, however, is that gamophobes can love and attach emotionally but morbidly resist commitment due to intense fear.
Many phobias have similar symptoms, but not everyone experiences the same set of symptoms. They vary depending on the extremity of the fear and length of time it persisted. Symptoms of gamophobia are similar to those experienced in people with heightened anxiety and panic attacks. The following are among the most common physical and psychological symptoms:
Early adulthood experiences have proven to be the main reason why people develop phobias. In people who fear commitment, this could have been a personal negative or traumatic experience in relationships or even a prior marriage. These experiences can be intensive enough to trigger the development of gamophobia.
Gamophobes could have developed their fear of commitment from their environment. Learned behavior typically occurs during early childhood and the stage of adolescence. If the child grew up in a home where the parents had a dysfunctional marriage or divorced, this could negatively affect their views of romantic relationships and marriage.
High divorce rates and statistics of failed relationships can cause a person to develop deep mistrust and fear of commitment. The vulnerability that comes with sharing space, finances, assets, and children in marriage itself and a fear of divorce can be the underlying sources of gamophobia in some people.
Gamophobia or the fear of commitment affects both men and women and can take a toll on their quality of life. Because they prefer to remain in uncommitted romantic situations, their experiences are fraught with conflicts, unhappiness and breakups. When the phobia is this extreme, treatment may become necessary to quench the fear.
Several types of treatments are available. Some are more effective than others, depending on the severity of the fear. The most common available treatments include:
This technique is used to desensitize the mind. In exposure therapy, the client will engage in a process of physically and psychologically confronting the fear. For example, the therapist may take the client to wedding ceremonies or engage in discussions about marriage and commitment. Facing their fears head on allow commitment phobes to gradually lose their sensitivity and negative reactions to the thoughts and images of marriage and commitment.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or behavioral therapy are talk therapy tools used in psychotherapy to recondition to the point where the client begins to react positively to commitment and marriage. The client is able to uncover the root cause of their fear, which in many cases is due to a negative or traumatic experience.
This treatment may be used in combination with other therapeutic treatments. A licensed couples therapist can help the client view marriage as an institution that can provide happiness even amid conflicts. Therapy can teach useful skills to amicably resolve conflicts and reduce the idea that commitment is a death sentence and, therefore, should be feared.
This is also another frequently used treatment for phobias, including gamophobia. The hypnotherapist will place the client in a hypnotic trance to help him or her discover the initial event that caused the phobia. While in a deeply relaxed mental state, the client searches the subconscious to identify repressed memories linked to the fear. The client is then essentially brain trained to view commitment as something positive rather than negative.
This can be an effective way of understanding gamophobia and can provide special ways to change the gamophobe’s views and reactions to commitment. This information can be accessed from self-help videos, DVDs, books, articles and other useful materials. Although it can be effective to some extent, professional therapy has proven to be one of the most effective methods of eliminating the phobia.
Many of the symptoms of gamophobia are the same as those of severe anxiety and panic attacks. Anti-anxiety medications can be used to treat the anxiety symptoms. In severe cases of panic attacks, anti-depressants have been used to treat the symptoms. Like self-help, this form of treatment only treats the symptoms but not the root cause of the phobia. In extreme cases of gamophobia, a person may ultimately need professional therapy or hypnotherapy to eliminate the fear.
Phobias, such as the fear of commitment, involuntarily pervades the subconscious. Many people are not even aware they have a phobia. Because phobias develop suddenly, involuntarily, and unconsciously, it may be challenging to prevent gamophobia. However, the following early intervention strategies may help prevent the phobia:
Parental behaviors and a positive nurturing environment can help prevent gamophobia in adulthood. Since many phobias develop in early childhood, parents can instill positive values about marriage and commitment in their children through their own speech and behavior.
Where children are subjected to the negative experiences of a dysfunctional marital relationship between their parents, family therapy intervention can help rewrite their thoughts and images of marriage and commitment in romantic relationships. As adults, they may instead view marriage and committed relationships as opportunities for healthy and happy experiences.