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Fear of women (gynophobia): causes, symptoms and treatment

Fear of women (gynophobia): causes, symptoms and treatment

January 25, 2022

Gynephobia 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 to any female person. 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 discuss gynephobia and detail the most important aspects of this phobic disorder, as well as its causes, symptoms and treatment.

Ginephobia: what is it?

Phobias are anxiety disorders that are characterized because the people who suffer from them feel a great fear towards a stimulus that they try to avoid in order to reduce the discomfort. There are different types of phobias, which are usually grouped into 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 kind of relationship with women , even intimate relationships and, therefore, be unable to and develop an intimate relationship or the project of forming a family.

Gynephobia can cause serious relational problems that can affect different areas of people's lives, as the phobic will avoid any place where they can find themselves in the phobic stimulus, generally recruiting in their own home, avoiding not going to work or taking the public transport. It is a serious disorder that must be treated.

Causes of this disorder

The causes of this phenomenon can be varied. Sometimes, the low self-esteem of the subject leads to fear of women, other times may be the result of bad experiences in intimate relationships with them or as a result of irrational beliefs, such as women want to hurt and are bad by nature.

However, in most cases the traumatic experiences of the past are behind this disorder, so they tend to develop by a type of associative learning called classical conditioning. This type of learning is primitive, and although the first person to investigate was Ivan Pavlov, the term became popular thanks to John B. Watson, one of the creators of one of the most important trends in psychology: behaviorism.

Watson was the first to investigate classic 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 that it was possible to learn negative emotions, such as fear, through this process. For this, he made one of the most controversial experiments in the history of Psychology, because it caused a child, named Albert, to learn to be afraid of a white rat with which he previously enjoyed playing. Watson did it; however, this experiment could not be carried out at present because it is considered unethical.

You can delve into the classical conditioning and the Watson experiment in our article: "Classical conditioning and its most important experiments"

Are we biologically programmed to suffer phobias?

Researchers believe that classical conditioning is not the only cause of phobias, since many people learn this kind of fear by observation, it is what is known as vicar conditioning that is not the same as learning by imitation (as we explained in our article "Vicar conditioning: how does this type of learning work?").

In addition, other authors believe that we are biologically predisposed to suffer 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 the brain regions that belong to what is known as the primitive brain, so it is characterized by primitive and non-cognitive associations. That is to say, that these fears are difficult to modify by logical arguments. This idea comes from Martin Seligman's theory of preparation.

Symptoms of fear of women

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

These symptoms occur in three levels: cognitive, behavioral and physical. The cognitive symptoms are fear, anguish, confusion and difficulties in maintaining attention, as well as irrational thinking that the person has. Avoidance is the most characteristic behavioral symptom.Physical symptoms include: blushing. difficulty breathing, nausea, hypersudation, tremors, etc.


Phobias cause a lot of suffering; however, they have a high percentage of success 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 cognitive behavioral therapy techniques that have proven to be more effective, scientific studies conclude. Among these, stand out: relaxation techniques and exposure techniques.

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

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

Differences between gynophobia, misogyny and calliginephobia

It is important not to confuse gynophobia with caliginephobia , that is characterized because the man, generally by his low self-esteem, feels intimidated in front of 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.

  • Related article: "Stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination: why should we avoid prejudging?"

TOP 10 PHOBIAS - What Are You Afraid Of? (January 2022).

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