The fear of emotional attachment; fear of being, or falling in love…
Medical science defines philophobia as an abnormal, unwarranted and persistent fear of falling in love. Its name comes from two Greek roots, “philo” meaning love and “phobia” meaning fear of. This fear of love isn’t merely a distressing emotional condition; it can result in actual physical symptoms, and may even heighten a person’s alienation from family, friends, co-workers and neighbours.
Every human relationship requires a certain amount of emotional involvement, but people who suffer from philophobia are often unable to make this connection. Philophobics may start by avoiding close contact with members of the opposite sex, and then become so sensitized to emotional reactions that they begin to avoid all people.
In addition, philophobia produces a distinct set of physical symptoms. Philophobia symptoms can range from nervousness or restlessness in the presence of the opposite sex, to feelings of absolute dread at the prospect of meeting someone. In its most extreme cases, philophobia can cause full-blown panic attacks: sweating, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, nausea and an intense need to escape from the presence of the potential lover.
As with all phobias, psychiatrists and psychologists aren’t in 100% agreement on what sets off philophobia. Sometimes a person dwells on bitter memories of past relationships that didn’t go well or that ended badly, whether romantic or familial. Or the sufferer may have an intense fear of rejection and avoids relationships as a way to avoid the embarrassment of being refused by a potential lover. Others may have gone through an acrimonious divorce and be convinced that falling in love again will only lead to another painful divorce or breakup.
While these are examples of some of the experiences held in common by people who suffer from philophobia, no verified connection has been drawn between these intense episodes and the onset of the condition. What is known for sure is that people who go through bad romances or relationships are able to bounce back, while others find themselves trapped in a psychological situation that eventually keeps them separated from other people.
What causes such a disturbing mental condition? For some people, being in the throes of love means losing control of their emotions, something that terrifies them. In this instance, romantic love makes it impossible for them to maintain their emotional control, because their well-being relies on the responses of their partners.
Fortunately, people who suffer from philophobia can get treatment. Counselling, behavioural therapy, and medication have all been proven to be effective phobia treatments when used well. The patient and his or her therapist must together determine which therapies are right and in which combinations.