Philophobia is the fear of love, and the name of this affliction is taken from the Greek. Literally translated, it means fear of the beloved. Philophobia is classified as a social anxiety. When dealing with it, we avoid close relationships with other people. We are accompanied by a fear of commitment and love. We become anxious not only about the person who shows us interest, but also about watching couples in love. We try to beware of anything that would require us to enter into a close relationship with another person. What are the symptoms of fear of falling in love?
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Fear of falling in love – symptoms
It is very rare that we say outright: I am afraid of falling in love. Usually, on a conscious level, we declare our desire to find true love and a partner who will provide us with emotional security. Sometimes we even date, but after a few meetings we find that the chemistry is missing. We don’t then ask ourselves: am I afraid of love? We assume that we simply haven’t met the right person with whom we would like to go through life together. When we suffer from philophobia, the symptoms are not always clear-cut. As humans, we rationalise many things, including the difficulty of finding a partner. If we have never been in a relationship, we are able to explain it away by external factors. We rarely look within ourselves to find the cause there.
When we suffer from fear of love, the symptoms usually include:
-a bad opinion of other people, which can manifest itself in words: men only look at women’s looks and cheat on them with younger women;
-the belief that relationships often end in suffering and hurt and do not lead to anything good;
-avoiding dating and meeting new people;
-seeing faults in potential partners when dating;
-fear of intimacy, maintaining emotional distance in relationships with other people;
-self-sabotage, which often involves mistreating the other person in order to alienate them;
-ghosting, which involves abruptly breaking off a relationship without a word of explanation;
-subconsciously choosing inappropriate partners in order to end a relationship quickly and to reassert the belief that love is a threat;
– rationalising their own loneliness, explaining it by their career or by the lack of suitable candidates for a partner;
-maintaining superficial romantic relationships and ending them quickly;
-psychosomatic symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath, excessive sweating at the thought of love and commitment.
What does the fear of falling in love mean?
A phobia of love involves the avoidance of relationships based on intimacy and commitment. Although it usually appears to us to take the form of complete withdrawal, forms of it vary. Some attitudes are less obvious, so that when asked: am I afraid of falling in love?, we automatically answer: no.
Philophobia manifests itself through:
-avoidance of the sight of couples in love, romantic comedies and morality novels;
-aversion to dating and panic when someone shows interest in us;
-looking for flaws in any potential partner when dating and setting excessive expectations;
-entering into superficial romantic relationships and keeping an emotional distance in them;
-self-sabotage, which, for example, involves betraying a partner, pointing out his or her flaws, and neglecting his or her needs in the relationship.
Philophobia sometimes takes an extreme form, in which case we are wary of everything that refers to intimacy and love. We are afraid of emotional dependence on another person. The thought of it is so frightening that it makes our heart beat faster and makes us dizzy. It happens that at first glance the fear of love is alien to us. We get into more relationships, but these quickly end because we don’t commit to the relationship or we sabotage it.
Where does the fear of falling in love come from – the causes of philophobia?
When philophobia reaches us, the causes of anxiety usually involve our past experiences. Past experiences and observations shape in us maladaptive beliefs related to love. They provide a kind of script and signpost that we follow to reduce the risk of potential suffering. We fail to see that we are condemning ourselves to loneliness in and out of relationships, which in the long term causes depressive states.
The most common causes of philophobia are:
-violence in the family, which has given rise to the belief that love causes suffering;
-frequent quarrels between parents carried out in an atmosphere of mutual aggression;
-neglect of emotional needs by caregivers;
-injury by a previous partner, e.g. a relationship with a narcissist is often fraught with psychological violence that leaves deep emotional wounds;
– traumas, including those related to sexual violence and harassment. The relationship is then perceived as dangerous because it also includes the erotic sphere;
-family messages; it happens that the women in our family are raising children alone and often tell them not to trust men. Their words become deeply embedded in our memory and guide our behaviour. When we enter into a relationship, we feel a conflict of loyalties as we embezzle from our relatives’ beliefs;
-the fear of losing autonomy and emotional dependence, which often stems from overprotective parents. They blocked our independence and did not allow a healthy sense of agency to take shape. The relationship appears to us as a loss of barely regained freedom and liberty, so we avoid it;
-low self-esteem in a relationship makes us see ourselves as unworthy of love. We fear that our partner will abandon us anyway, so we minimise the suffering by not committing to the relationship;
-a lack of trust in other people and the conviction that they have bad intentions;
-depression, through which we see ourselves, the world and the future in black colours.
Consequences of philophobia
Fear of love is a problem that we often trivialise, while it has far-reaching consequences. We put on armour to protect ourselves from potential hurt and suffering. Our defence mechanism does work, but by avoiding close relationships with other people, we condemn ourselves to loneliness. We lack the emotional security that provides an optimal level of arousal. We face all the difficulties life brings on our own. Our brain is constantly on alert to perceive potential danger and respond accordingly. People who nurture close relationships can count on the support of others. They signal their emotions and needs to them, so they often enjoy better health and well-being. Fear of falling in love condemns us to loneliness, which shortens life expectancy. Research has shown that it increases the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, depression, anxiety and weakens the immune system. In addition, the lack of close relationships results in low self-esteem. The longer we avoid them, the more strongly we feel the effects of loneliness.
How to overcome the fear of falling in love?
If we suffer from philophobia, treatment is possible. It is based on psychotherapy, which makes it possible to improve one’s quality of life and modify one’s existing beliefs about relationships. The CBT current is highly effective in reducing anxiety. Cognitive behavioural psychotherapy is based on the idea that our beliefs influence our emotions, actions and physiological reactions. If we assume that love is a threat and breeds suffering, we feel anxious and thus avoid intimate relationships. The thought of them triggers dizziness, shortness of breath and a faster heartbeat.
Regardless of our age, we can carry out cognitive reprogramming because our brain remains plastic and capable of forming new synaptic connections. Cognitive behavioural therapy in the treatment of love anxiety helps to access maladaptive beliefs about close relationships. We assess their veracity and then replace them with more realistic counterparts. Changing thoughts modifies our emotions, behaviour and physiological reactions. It allows us to lead a fuller and more fulfilling life. Cognitive behavioural psychotherapy in the treatment of love anxiety often uses exposure techniques. The patient confronts his or her own fears with exercises that gradually familiarise him or her with intimacy in interpersonal relationships. Initially, the specialist encourages him or her to watch romantic comedies and go out to the park where couples in love walk. Later, the person suffering from philophobia meets people, such as friends in a restaurant. Over time, he or she starts dating. Confronting the fear shows us that it is unfounded. Our beliefs and fearful visions are not reflected in reality. Philophobia – how to treat it when it is accompanied by severe depressive states or annoying psychosomatic symptoms? Sometimes a strong fear of love requires the cooperation of a psychotherapist with a psychiatrist. The doctor prescribes antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medication to the patient. The psychotherapist, on the other hand, together with the client, tries to get to the client’s destructive beliefs about relationships in order to replace them with more adaptive ones.
In my earlier post, I explained how love differs from falling in love, but from the point of view of philophobia, this is not so important. The anxiety that the thought of intimacy causes in us makes us keep an emotional distance. We try not to get involved in a relationship because both falling in love and love seem threatening to us. We shy away from affection in various ways. Some of us do not date at all and avoid seeing couples in love. Others enter into superficial relationships in which they self-sabotage, for example by cheating on or neglecting their partner. Sometimes they end one relationship after another, stressing that they feel let down by subsequent partners. When we find it difficult to build a stable relationship, it is worth considering whether we suffer from a phobia of love. This can take many forms and shades. It makes it difficult for us to have intimate relationships that affect happiness and life satisfaction. The causes of philophobia can be traced back to past bonds with carers and/or a former partner. Fortunately, it is never too late to eliminate the fear of love. Cognitive behavioural therapy, which is highly effective in treating fear, can help. By opening up to close relationships, we will see that our lives become richer and fuller because of them. Let us not allow ourselves to be limited by the fear of love.