Androphobia refers to an extreme and irrational fear of men. It is derived from a Greek word where “andros” means and “phobos” means fear. A person with androphobia may experience extreme anxiety or fear of men.
The term originated inside feminism and lesbian-feminism movements to balance the opposite term gynophobia which means fear of women.
Androphobia is a psychiatric condition that involves the fear of men. You feel safe in spaces where there are no men. Lastly, it is a type of specific phobia.
Androphobia is a psychiatric condition that comes with life-disrupting symptoms. We all have things we dislike. We might even loathe something actively that you try to avoid. But phobias stretch beyond this basic aversion or hatred.
Specific phobias like androphobia, the fear of men, are fears so extreme that they disrupt your everyday life. If you simply dislike men, then you will choose to dwell in predominantly female spaces.
Contrastingly, androphobia causes such an extreme fear of men that you may feel safe only at home or in areas or spaces where there will not be any chance of seeing men.
Phobias are a form of anxiety disorder and are one of the most common mental disorders. There are specifically five types of phobias: animal, natural environment, blood-injection-injury, situational and other. Androphobia falls into the other category and not the first four categories.
While androphobia is not mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), 5th ed, it is a type of specific phobia that affects people of all genders.
Androphobia is a type of anxiety disorder. If left unchecked, it can provoke abnormal behaviors and physical reactions. Professional intervention can help relieve some of these symptoms.
In case of androphobia, an extreme reaction can occur when exposed to men or masculinity, in anticipation of such experiences, or even listening to words related to the male sex.
This intense fear may be present as intense feelings of disgust, feeling as though you are in danger, or with physical symptoms of anxiety such as panic attacks.
Signs of Androphobia
In order to be diagnosed with androphobia, you need to meet the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual For Mental Disorder (DSM), 5th ed’s criteria for specific phobia. You may feel an instant, intense fear or anxiousness when seeing or even thinking about men.
- You will be aware that your fear of men is irrational but you won’t be able to control it in any manner. Your anxiety acts up and gets worse when either you get physically closer to men or they get closer to you.
- You actively avoid men in general and situations where you may bump into a man. Your fear of men hinders your day-to-day activities. You might even feel intense worry or fear in situations where you anticipate meeting men.
- There may be physical manifestations of your symptoms including sweating, rapid heartbeat, chest tightness, shaking, or troubled breathing.
- You may also experience panic attacks, heart palpitations or elevated heart rate, muscle tension, a strong urge to exit the anxiety-provoking situation, irritability, and sleep problems.
- Lastly, you may experience nausea, dizziness, or fighting when in close proximity with the men or even when you are thinking about men.
- This excessive and irrational fear must interfere with your work, personal or social life. This may be exhibited by avoiding male-related situations or enduring such symptoms amidst significant stress, gastrointestinal distress, and panic.
- These fear-related episodes should occur for at least six months.
- The alienation, social isolation, and loneliness that follow the disorder such as androphobia often push one to consider suicide.
- In children, the symptoms are typically exhibited as crying, tantrums, freezing, and clinging to the female parent at the sight of a man.
Your panic-related symptoms should not be explained by other conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder or agoraphobia.
Although your androphobia must occur in response to male-related triggers, it is possible for the androphobia to occur with other mental health conditions.
It should be noted that specific phobias can co-occur with other mental health conditions such as agoraphobia, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, bipolar II disorder, and alcohol dependence.
Specific phobias may be highly comorbid with other physical diseases too.
Diagnosis of Androphobia
As mentioned earlier, androphobia belonged to the other category of specific phobia. You diagnose this disorder based on the criteria given for specific phobia in the DSM 5.
In the therapist’s office, the session normally begins with rapport building. This entails trying to understand the client or the patient. The therapist will try to discern the reasons behind the fear.
The therapist will try to understand if it is misandry or androphobia. As mentioned, misandry is hatred of men whereas androphobia is the fear of men.
You can diagnose androphobia under the following conditions:
- Marked fear or anxiety about men
- Being around men almost always provokes fear or anxiety
- The fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by men and to the socio-cultural context.
- Men are actively avoided or endured with an intense fear or anxiety.
- The fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
- This fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent and typically lasts for 6 months or more.
- The symptoms of fear experienced should not be explained by other medical conditions.
How Common is Androphobia?
Experts are not sure how common androphobia is. There is not a clear indication. However, as many as 12% of the American population and nearly 1 in every 5 teenagers experiences specific phobia of some kind at some time during their lifetime.
Additionally, it can impact all genders and non-conforming individuals as well. As per some estimates, a specific phobia can impact 7.4% of the population at some point in their life. In this too, young females are more likely to possess a specific phobia than men.
Who is at Risk for Androphobia?
A specific phobic disorder like androphobia is twice as likely to affect women and those Designated Female At Birth (DFAB). A parent or a close relative having a phobia or any other anxiety disorder increases your chances of developing the disorder.
You might exhibit similar fears if you spend a lot of time with someone who has androphobia. It is believed by experts that some people have genetic differences that make them more susceptible to developing an anxiety disorder.
Other risk factors for androphobia include having another phobia, panic disorder, anxiety disorder, and substance abuse disorder.
People with sensitive, inhibited, and negative temperaments or personalities are also susceptible to an irrational fear of men.
Lastly, even listening to secondhand accounts of horrifying experiences about men from family, friends or even a stranger can trigger androphobia.
What Causes Androphobia?
There is no definitive cause for why people develop phobias in general. It is more so often observed that androphobia or the fear of men begins in childhood and persists well into adulthood.
Although the trauma is caused by a group or a single man, the condition entails fearing all men or men-related stimuli instead of fearing just one specific person.
Dysfunction in the Neural Pathways
Specific phobias such as fear of men occur due to some dysfunction in the brain’s neural pathway that is responsible for defensive behaviors.
One specific part of the brain namely the amygdala becomes over-stimulated and it fails to reduce the emotional responses one has to certain triggers. This overstimulation is a result of unexpected, harmful circumstances or learned behaviors.
For some people, a past harmful experience or a frightening experience with a male during childhood may cause androphobia.
In other words, like many phobias, androphobia may be the result of past negative experiences. These situations may result in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well as fear of men.
Such a disorder, namely androphobia may stem from various traumatic events that occur during any stage of life. This may trigger the person to constantly remember the traumatic event. Additionally, the brain overreacts to such events.
Some examples of fear-inducing occurrences include:
- Child abuse, domestic abuse, or other violence.
- Acts of violence such as robbery
- Sexual trauma such as sexual harassment, assault, or rape
- An intimidating or overbearing authority figure or bully (teacher, parent, or boss)
This sensitization is a learned fear response of exaggerated emotional response to certain cues. By associating with negative events, research suggests that people can be conditioned to fear someone or something.
For example, this cue can be a smell, image or sound. Though this cue has nothing to do with the traumatic event, it can still evoke fearful thoughts.
In some cases, fear of men can be contagious. Observational conditioning occurs when one individual observes or sees someone else experiencing symptoms of phobia. Despite not being in danger, the first person exhibits fear behaviors when exposed to a mere cue.
Treatment of Androphobia
Androphobia is a curable condition. Most people recover from androphobia through therapy sessions itself. The primary treatment of androphobia is psychotherapy otherwise commonly referred to as talk therapy.
There are two most common types of therapy that are used to treat androphobia. This is exposure therapy and behavior therapy. In some cases, medication is also included in the treatment plan.
The design of exposure therapy is such that it is designated to change your response to men in general. You will be gradually and repeatedly exposed to things that you associate with men. Finally, you will be exposed to a real-life man or men.
Over the course of the therapy, these gradual exposures will help you manage your thoughts, feelings, and sensations associated with your fear of men.
For example, your therapist will initially display pictures of men. Then they will make you listen to voice recordings of men. Post this, your therapist may make you watch videos of men. Finally, they may make you confront a real-life man.
Here, the treatment usually involves five to eight 90-minute sessions or one session that goes on for 2 to 3 hours.
It is stated that the benefits of exposure therapy last for at least one year and further you can maintain this through self-exposure.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
A psychotherapy approach known as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches patients how to recognize and alter unhelpful or distressing thought patterns that have an adverse impact on their behavior and emotions.
The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to alter the automatic negative ideas that cause and exacerbate emotional problems, depression, and anxiety. The mood is negatively impacted by these uncontrollable unpleasant thoughts.
In cognitive behavioral therapy, the therapist will teach you the following:
- View your fear in a different manner.
- Cope with the bodily sensations that are associated with this fear.
- Emotionally dealing with the impact the fear had on your life.
Instead of feeling overpowered by your thoughts, CBT will help you master your thoughts and feelings and gain some control over them.
Normally, psychotherapy is successful at treating the symptoms of Androphobia. However, sometimes it may be helpful to accompany psychotherapy treatment with medication to alleviate the feelings of anxiety or panic attacks associated with androphobia.
These are typically anti-anxiety medications. Medications should be used at the beginning of the treatment to help facilitate recovery.
Another appropriate time when you use medication is for a short, infrequent situation where it hinders you from doing something necessary. For example, being unable to receive treatment from a man or going to the emergency room.
The most commonly used medications are:
Beta Blockers: Beta blockers regulate the physiological effects of adrenaline produced by anxiety. Uncomfortable and occasionally harmful physical symptoms of adrenaline include raised heart rate and blood pressure, a racing heart, as well as trembling limbs and voice.
Sedatives: Benzodiazepines ease your anxiety, which makes you feel calmer. Due to their potential for addiction, these medicines should be used with caution. If you have a history of alcohol or drug abuse, benzodiazepines may not be the best choice for you.
You can reduce your fear-related stress and help in building your inner strength in many ways. With the approval of your health care worker, try one or more of the following ideas:
- Keep an everyday journal to track your emotions and behavior.
- Practicing gratitude
- Having a support system of loved ones or friends you can rely on to help you through a difficult time
- Getting sufficient rest every night
Your healthcare provider or the therapist may suggest some of the following self-calming techniques:
- Breathing Exercises
- Affirming self-talk
- Muscle Relaxation Training
When Should You Consult a Doctor?
Androphobia may start out as a small inconvenience, but it has the potential to grow into major obstacles in your daily life. You should consult a doctor if the anxiety caused by your androphobia is:
- Negatively impacting your work or school performance
- Harming your social relationships or the ability to be social
- Interfering with your everyday activities
Your doctor can refer you to an appropriate mental health practitioner.
It is specifically imperative to address any cases of androphobia in children. In some cases, the child may outgrow their fears. However, this has a great impact on the child and may impair their ability to function in society. These fears should be addressed with professional help.
If you ask your doctor to be screened for androphobia, they will discuss your medical, psychiatric, and social history with you. To rule out any physical problems that may be causing the anxiety, the doctor may perform a physical examination.
If your doctor is suspicious that you have androphobia or other anxiety disorders, they will immediately recommend you to consult a mental health practitioner for better and more specialized care.
Additionally, your health care professional will be on the lookout for the following:
- Severe anxiety about one specific thing, in this case, it would be male.
- The object of fear almost always incites immediate fear.
- That you avoid the object that you fear or are struggling to tolerate.
Androphobia and Sex Life
If you suffer from Androphobia, it has the potential to actively disrupt one’s sex life. Androphobic women and gay men intentionally keep away from men which has a negative impact on their sex life. Even women or men with mild androphobia are known to feel uncomfortable while even talking to men.
Androphobics are normally depressed individuals who prefer their own company. Despite having feelings for a man or the urge to have sex, an androphobic woman or man will have difficulty conveying her feelings because of their intense and irrational fear of masculinity or men in general.
Androphobia and Misandry
Misandry refers to hatred of men. The counterpart of misandry is misogyny, which is hatred of women. Contrastingly, androphobia is the fear of men and not hatred of men.
Androphobia is unrealistic to live with. It can make it difficult to work, socialize, travel, have relationships, or do the things that bring joy to many people. It can negatively impact the quality of life.
Androphobia can negatively impact the quality of your life. The possible complications are listed above.
A mental health professional can help you overcome your phobia. You may benefit from exposure therapy, CBT, or other therapies depending on what is causing your phobia.
It is important to seek help if you require it. This is specifically the case if you have children who are or could be affected by your phobia. With treatment, you can reduce your anxiety and live your life to the fullest.
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Lavanya is currently finishing up her Masters's in Clinical Psychology. Concurrently, she is working as a psychology teacher for high school children. While teaching has been keeping her occupied, her passion for writing could not be ignored. She has a keen interest in researching the content, planning, editing, and finally delivering quality content. Her love for psychology has brought her here. Further, outside of psychology, she likes playing basketball on the weekends and is trying her hand at classical music. She likes to keep herself occupied and enjoys engaging in activities outside of her comfort zone.