Philophobia is a powerful and irrational fear of love including romantic or sexual relationships beyond the normal apprehension that an individual might have about becoming emotionally involved with others.
While love is one of the most pleasurable parts of life, those who suffer from the specific phobia known as Philophobia can be petrified by even the thought of falling in love with another person. It can be normal for an individual to be apprehensive about entering into a relationship, but someone with philophobia has a persistent and unreasonable fear of the prospect. This can have a significantly negative effect on the life of the person afflicted, making relationships tumultuous or impossible.
Unlike other specific phobias, this condition can be hard to diagnose as the patient may be unaware that they suffer from the disorder or may be reluctant to be forthcoming about their feelings about love. The patient may have many mistaken beliefs about love or they may be fully aware that love cannot harm them but still are unable to shake their aversion to it. Nearly every human relationship depends on emotional involvement to some degree, but those who are afflicted with Philophobia can suffer from an inability to make this connection or experience extreme anxiety when getting closer to others. This may lead to them avoiding contact with the opposite sex (or the sex to which they are attracted) or eventually avoid everyone. This can cause significant distress or even lead to significant social isolation as the person suffering this condition will take drastic steps to assure that they do not fall in love with anyone.
This phobia is marked by several intense symptoms that may separate those that suffer from this condition from others, such as social anxiety disorder. The person who has this condition is fixated specifically on love and how terrible it would be if they fell in love. This can have its roots in a mistaken idea of what love is or the consequences of falling in love. This may exist along with strong religious beliefs that lead the patient to believe that they will suffer condemnation (either personal, parental, or from a deity) from the act of love or sexual involvement.
In some cases, those who have Philophobia may be able to engage in sexual relationships to a certain point but only when there is no emotional involvement. When their feelings for the partner change they may shut down or end the relationship abruptly. This is not just a fear of commitment but a fear of the feelings that accompany the relationship or an overwhelming sense that loving someone, or the consequences of the relationship ending when they are in love, will be too much to risk. The symptoms that mark this phobic reaction are consistent with many other specific phobias, including feelings of dread when getting close to others that lead to extreme avoidance behaviors. This can cause panic attacks, profuse sweating, a rapid heartbeat, chest pain, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, or an inability to function in everyday life. The person who suffers these anxieties will likely be fine when interacting with others in an impersonal manner but begin to manifest the symptoms once a relationship becomes too intense for their comfort. Not only does this contribute to difficulty forming meaningful relationships with others but can also contribute to an unhealthy level of isolation, loneliness, and profound emotional distress.
The most common cause of Philophobia, like with many specific phobias, is past trauma. Someone with philophobia is likely very troubled by their past relationship and sexual history and overreacts in response to these experiences. Many are troubled by the relationships of their parents, who may have become estranged or even had an abusive relationship. The example of this unhappy or marital situation could have a profound impact on the way that they view love or relationships. They may be deeply cynical about the prospect of love or feel that there is no benefit to it because of how past relationships have progressed to neglect or abuse.
This particular phobia can be marked with an extreme lack of trust in the opposite sex or potential partners. Patients have often been deeply in love at some point in the past only for their feelings to be unrequited or they were harshly treated by the other party. Attempts to pursue another relationship may be plagued with intense feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, or strong jealousy. They can be unable to resolve feelings about past relationships in a healthy manner and see negative aspects in every potential partner they encounter. Strong religious beliefs or disapproval by parental figures may affect the ability of the patient to pursue love freely and certain lifestyle considerations may act as an additional hindrance. For those who are able to conduct sexual relationships, they may see the progress of a relationship beyond a purely sexual level as a trap or an attempt to dominate or abuse them. Additionally, some individuals have a genetic predisposition to phobic behavior which may contribute to them developing this or other phobias.
Philophobia may be one of the most difficult phobias to treat and it may be more prevalent than we think. The most common treatment for Philophobia, like many specific phobias, is exposure therapy. This route can be deeply problematic, however, and is likely only available through the consultation of a specialist in sex therapy. There may be some pharmaceutical treatments which may help to reduce the fear and anxiety experienced early on in treatment while gradually exposing themselves to close relationships, such as sedatives and beta blockers, but this is considered a short-term solution that does not address the underlying issues that are causing the disorder.
Prevention of Philophobia may be extraordinarily difficult. Many of our thoughts and feelings regarding love may be formed very early in life. Allowing children to express themselves in close relationships with others and instilling in them the positive aspects of love may not always result in a healthy relationship with the concept of love. Some phobias may be the result of a genetic predisposition or even be hereditary. There is also a strong link between early sexual trauma and this particular phobia. The best prevention as an adult may be a gradual but determined effort to become more close with others and be able to experience the positive aspects of loving relationships frequently. If someone has feelings associated with Philophobia, they will require a strong support network to work through their feelings in a way that does not minimize or trivialize the fear that they are experiencing. While love can hurt, it can also be one of the most positive feelings possible in the human experience.