Fear Of Women (gynephobia): Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Gynophobia or fear of women is a strange phobia that usually occurs among men (although it can also affect women) and, therefore, it is an irrational fear for any person of the female sex. This pathology, which causes great discomfort, anxiety and fear, should not be confused with misogyny, which is hatred towards women.

In this article we will talk about gynophobia and detail the most important aspects of this phobic disorder, as well as its causes, symptoms and treatment.

Gynephobia: what is it

Phobias are anxiety disorders that are characterized because people who suffer from them feel a great fear of a stimulus that they try to avoid to reduce discomfort. There are different types of phobias, which are usually included in three groups: social phobia, agoraphobia and specific phobia. The fear of women belongs to this last group, and can prevent the phobic from having any type of relationship with women.even intimate relationships and, therefore, is incapable of and developing an intimate relationship or the project of starting a family.

Gynophobia can cause serious relational problems that can affect different areas of a person’s life, since the phobic will avoid any place where they may encounter the phobic stimulus, generally reclusive in their own home, avoiding not going to work or taking the bus. public transport. It is a serious disorder that must be treated.

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Causes of this disorder

The causes of this phenomenon can be varied. Sometimes, the subject’s low self-esteem leads him to be afraid of women, other times it can be the result of bad experiences in intimate relationships with them or a consequence of irrational beliefs, such as, for example, that women want to do harm and are bad by nature.

Now, in most cases, past traumatic experiences are behind this disorder, which is why they usually develop through a type of associative learning called classical conditioning. This type of learning is primitive, and although the first person to investigate it was Ivan Pavlov, the term became popular thanks to John B. Watson, one of the creators of one of the most important currents in Psychology: behaviorism.

Watson was the first to investigate classical conditioning and phobias in humans. One of the characteristics of this type of learning is that it involves automatic or reflex responses, not voluntary behaviors, so Watson thought it was possible to learn negative emotions, such as fear, through this process. To do this, he carried out one of the most controversial experiments in the history of Psychology, as it caused a child, named Albert, to learn to be afraid of a white rat with which he previously enjoyed playing. Watson succeeded; However, this experiment could not be carried out currently as it is considered unethical.

You can delve deeper into classical conditioning and Watson’s experiment in our article: “Classical conditioning and its most important experiments”

Are we biologically programmed to suffer from phobias?

Researchers believe that classical conditioning is not the only cause of phobias, since many people learn these types of fears by observation, it is what is known as vicarious conditioning, which is not the same as learning by imitation (as we explained in our article “Vicarious conditioning: how does this type of learning work?”).

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Furthermore, other authors believe that we are biologically predisposed to suffer from phobias., because fear is a negative emotion that has been very useful in the past because it has allowed the survival of human beings. This type of learning activates brain regions that belong to what is known as the primitive brain, which is why it is characterized by primitive and non-cognitive associations. That is to say, these fears are difficult to modify by logical arguments. This idea comes from Martin Seligman’s preparation theory.

Symptoms of fear of women

Like other specific phobic disorders, fear of women presents similar symptomatology. The only difference is that the phobic stimulus that elicits it is different. Therefore, anxiety, discomfort and fear manifest themselves in the presence of this stimulus, which leads the person to want to avoid it to reduce the symptoms.

These symptoms occur at three levels: cognitive, behavioral and physical. Cognitive symptoms are fear, anxiety, confusion and difficulties maintaining attention, as well as the irrational thoughts that the person has. Avoidance is the most characteristic behavioral symptom. Physical symptoms include: blushing. difficulty breathing, nausea, excessive sweating, tremors, etc.

Treatment

Phobias cause a lot of suffering; However, they have a high success rate when the treatment includes psychological therapy. In some severe cases, patients receive pharmacological treatment, especially anxiolytics, but The basis of treatment must include psychotherapy so that the improvement is maintained over time.

Psychologists who are experts in the treatment of phobias usually include the cognitive behavioral therapy techniques that have proven to be most effective, according to scientific studies. Among these, the following stand out: relaxation techniques and exposure techniques.

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Both techniques are combined in a therapeutic method known as systematic desensitization, which consists of progressively exposing the patient to the phobic stimulus, but first they must have learned relaxation techniques, as they will allow them to better cope with the situations in which they must face your pathological fear. If you want to know more about this technique, you may be interested in reading our article “What is systematic desensitization and how does it work?”

Despite the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy to treat these types of disorders, other methods have also been shown to be useful. They are known as contextual or third generation therapies, among which acceptance and commitment therapy or cognitive therapy based on Mindfulness stand out, which take into account how the context (and the patient’s relationship with it) influences when developing pathology, and emphasize the acceptance of the experience as a way to reduce anxious symptoms and, therefore, reduce discomfort.

Differences between gynephobia, misogyny and caliginephobia

It is important not to confuse gynephobia with caliginephobia, which is characterized because the man, generally due to his low self-esteem, feels intimidated by the beauty of the woman. It is also important not to confuse gynophobia with misogyny, which is a type of prejudice in which the person feels hatred towards people of the female sex.