What Is Gamophobia? How to Face Fear of Marriage

Medically Reviewed By Janet Brito, Ph.D., LCSW, CST
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Gamophobia is the fear of marriage or commitment, from the Greek words for marriage (“gamos”) and fear (“phobia”). It is more than just “cold feet.” It is a paralyzing fear. Gamophobia causes a persistent, overwhelming, and unreasonable fear of marriage or commitment. People who have gamophobia can experience panic attacks at the thought of marriage or commitment.

This fear or panic is overpowering and uncontrollable. However, various forms of therapy can help people gain control over their fears.

This article explores gamophobia in more detail, including its symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

What is gamophobia?

Male couple on bed talking
Ibai Acevedo/Stocksy United

Phobias such as gamophobia are real anxiety disorders. They are strong, irrational fears of things that present little or no physical danger.

The stimulus of a phobia can be just about anything. This includes animals, people, objects, activities, and environments. In this case, it is a situation: marriage or commitment.

In general, people with phobias understand that their fear is not reasonable. However, they feel powerless in the face of it.

Gamophobia falls under the grouping of simple phobias. Simple phobias have a specific focus. “Specific phobias” is another name for them.

There are hundreds of simple phobias. The American Psychiatric Association estimates that up to 12% of people in the United States have a simple phobia.

What are the symptoms of commitment fear?

Simple phobias, including gamophobia, have both physical and psychological symptoms. Even though the danger is not real, the physical reaction to it is.

Adrenaline, which is the “fight-or-flight hormone,” fuels the body’s response to danger or fear. It is responsible for physical symptoms such as:

Some common psychological symptoms in the context of gamophobia may include:

  • guilt or shame about fearing marriage or commitment
  • an intense fear or panic about marriage or commitment
  • a lack of control over the fear of marriage or commitment
  • an overwhelming sense of dread, doom, or worry about the thought of marriage or commitment
  • a recognition that your fear of marriage or commitment is excessive

Fear of marriage or commitment may or may not be disruptive to your life. If it is interfering with your ability to have meaningful relationships, talk with your doctor. They can refer you to a counselor or another mental health professional. Early intervention offers the best chance of resolving the phobia and reclaiming your relationships.

What causes gamophobia?

It can be hard to name the exact cause of simple phobias, including gamophobia. Some people can relate their simple phobia 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 your gamophobia.

On the other hand, many people do not have a past event that explains their fear. Experts believe that these cases may involve inherited traits, such as personality, or learned attitudes. It is often hard to know whether people inherit behaviors and mindsets genetically or through family influence. 

Most likely, simple phobias are down to a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

What are the treatments for gamophobia?

If you have gamophobia, you should know that it is real. It is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw. You should also know that you do not have to live with the overwhelming panic. You can regain control over your reactions and relationships. 

Simple phobias that disrupt your ability to function normally need treatment. The most effective phobia treatments are forms of psychotherapy, or talk therapy, including the following.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) 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

This 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 start to tolerate small exposures, you will repeat the process with more intense situations. The goal is to learn to control your reactions and gain confidence in your ability to manage your fear.

Psychodynamic therapy

This is a less intense form of psychoanalysis. It focuses on gaining insight into emotional patterns and increasing self-understanding. 

Medications for phobias

Medications can also 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. They may also be useful when other mood disorders, such as depression, are present. 

Types of medications that may help with anxiety and phobias include:

  • antianxiety medications, including benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepine alternatives
  • antidepressants 
  • beta-blockers, which can also treat high blood pressure and certain heart problems

Effects of gamophobia

A number of complications can develop from simple phobias. Gamophobia can lead to social isolation, loneliness, and the inability to maintain any type of relationship. In short, it can be devastating to relationships.

Other possible complications include:

How to help a partner with gamophobia

If you have a partner with gamophobia, it is important for you to understand the disorder. Phobias are very real, but they are also very treatable.

Encourage your partner to seek treatment for the fear they recognize. Stress management, meditation, and support groups can all be useful. Consider doing them together or finding a partner support group. Family therapy, which can include couples, is also an option.

Frequently asked questions

Some other questions that people often ask about gamophobia include the following.

Is gamophobia normal?

Gamophobia is a diagnosable mental health condition that falls under the category of simple phobias. Simple phobias are very common. They can also be very disruptive to a person’s life. 

How do you overcome gamophobia?

The most effective treatment option for simple phobias is some form of therapy. With the right therapist, most people find relief from their phobias.

Summary

Gamophobia is a paralyzing fear of marriage or commitment. More than just “cold feet,” it is a diagnosable — and treatable — anxiety disorder.

Symptoms of gamophobia are both physical and emotional. They can include an increased heart rate, dizziness, and sweating, along with intense feelings of shame, guilt, or dread.

Gamophobia treatment often focuses on psychotherapy, but certain medications can also help relieve the symptoms. With effective treatment, many people can overcome gamophobia and enjoy long-term, meaningful relationships.

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Medical Reviewer: Janet Brito, Ph.D., LCSW, CST
Last Review Date: 2022 Mar 15
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