Gamophobia (Fear of Marriage)

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What is gamophobia?

Many people get “cold feet” about marriage or committing to another person. Most get past their hesitation in the right situation. Gamophobia is different. Gamos is Greek for marriage and phobia means fear. So, gamophobia translates as fear of marriage or fear of commitment. It’s more than just reluctance—it’s a paralyzing fear.

Phobias are real anxiety disorders. They are strong, irrational fears of something that in reality presents little or no physical danger. The stimulus of a phobia can be just about anything. This includes animals, people, objects, activities or environments. In this case, it’s a situation—marriage or commitment. In general, people with phobias understand their fear isn’t reasonable, but they feel powerless in the face of it.

Gamophobia falls under the category of simple phobias. Simple phobias have a specific focus, so they are also called specific phobias. There are hundreds of simple phobias. They are also the most common type of phobia. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) estimates that up to 9% of Americans have a simple phobia.

Gamophobia causes a persistent, overwhelming and unreasonable fear of marriage or commitment. People who have gamophobia can have full-blown panic attacks at the thought of marriage or commitment. This fear or panic is overpowering and uncontrollable. Some people can’t even see a married couple without these devastating emotions.

What are the symptoms of gamophobia?

Simple phobias, including gamophobia, have both physical and psychological symptoms. Even though the danger is overblown, the physical reaction to it is very real. The body’s response to danger or fear is fueled by adrenaline—the fight-or-flight hormone. It is responsible for the physical gamophobia symptoms including:

  • Fast heart rate or feeling like your heart is skipping a beat
  • Shakiness or trembling

Common psychological gamophobia symptoms include:

  • Guilt or shame about fearing marriage or commitment
  • Intense fear or panic about marriage or commitment
  • Lack of control over the fear of marriage or commitment
  • Overwhelming sense of dread, doom or worry about the thought of marriage or commitment
  • Recognition that fear of marriage or commitment is excessive

Fear of marriage or commitment may or may be disruptive to your life. If it is interfering with your ability to have normal relationships, see your doctor. Early intervention offers the best chance of resolving the phobia and reclaiming your relationships.

What causes gamophobia?

It’s often hard to name the exact cause of simple phobias, including gamophobia. Some people can relate their simple phobia fear to a negative past experience. In this case, an area of the brain called the amygdala likely plays a role. It records your reactions to events and reminds you about your feelings when you encounter a similar event. Past trauma involving marriage or a married couple may be at the root of gamophobia.

On the other hand, many people don’t necessarily have a past event that explains their fear. Experts believe these cases may involve certain inherited traits, such as personality, or learned attitudes. It’s often hard to know whether behaviors and mindsets are inherited genetically or through family influence. Most likely, simple phobias are a mix of environmental and genetic factors.

What are the treatments for gamophobia?

If you have gamophobia, you should know it’s real. It isn’t a sign of weakness or a character flaw. You should also know you don’t have to live with the overwhelming panic. You can regain control over your reactions and relationships. The earlier you seek help, the more likely it is that treatment will be successful.

Doctors recommend treating simple phobias when they disrupt your ability to function normally. The most effective gamophobia treatments are forms of psychotherapy—or talk therapy—including:

  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), which helps you identify negative thoughts, emotions and behaviors. A therapist works with you to change them and develop new beliefs about yourself and your reactions. The goal is to see your fear and your ability to face it differently. CBT is most effective in combination with exposure therapy.
  • Exposure therapy, which involves exposing you to your fear in gradual increments. A therapist works with you in controlled situations to help you work through the fear with anxiety-reducing techniques. As you tolerate small exposures, you will repeat the process with more intense situations. The goal is to learn to control your reaction and gain confidence in your ability to manage your fear.

Medications can play a role in treating some simple phobias. They are most appropriate for phobias involving temporary situations, such as fear of public speaking. However, doctors may recommend them for short-term use to get started with talk therapy. They may also be useful when other mood disorders, such as depression, are present. In the long run, talk therapy is the most successful way to manage simple phobias.

Complications can develop from simple phobias. Gamophobia can be devastating to relationships. It can lead to social isolation, loneliness, and the inability to maintain any type of relationship. Other possible complications include:

  • Substance abuse with alcohol or drugs
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 21
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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