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Fear of sex: All you need to know about erotophobia


If the thought of getting intimate with someone makes you want to hide, you might have a fear of sex. Here are some causes of erotophobia and tips to prevent it.

Have you ever felt a shiver down your spine at the thought of getting intimate? Some people have a phobia of having sex or getting intimate. It is known as erotophobia or fear of sex. It is more than just disliking sex, it is more of a phobia causing serious anxiety and distress. This fear can stem from past experiences or anxieties about body image or performance. Erotophobia can also be linked to other phobias like fear of nudity or being touched. Like any other phobia, erotophobia may vary in severity from person to person. However, the good news is erotophobia is treatable! Therapy can help you understand and overcome your fears. With time, you can develop healthy sexual relationships and enjoy intimacy. Know all about erotophobia, its causes, symptoms, and how to prevent it.

What is erotophobia?

Erotophobia is indeed the fear or aversion to sexual topics, activities, or situations. People experiencing erotophobia may feel anxious, distressed, or uncomfortable when confronted with anything related to sex or sexuality. This fear can stem from various factors such as past experiences or personal insecurities, as found in a study published in the Journal of Sex Research. It is important to note that erotophobia can impact relationships and personal well-being, often requiring understanding and support to address effectively.

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If you fear sex, you might have erotophobia. Image courtesy: Freepik

What are the causes of erotophobia?

Here are some of the potential causes of erotophobia.

1. Vaginismus

Vaginismus occurs when the muscles of the vagina tighten in a response to vaginal penetration, found a study published in the Sage Journal. This might make intercourse unpleasant or even impossible. It may also cause difficulty inserting a tampon. Such strong and consistent pain might instil a fear of sexual intimacy.

2. Sexual abuse

Child or sexual abuse can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and change how you see intimacy or sex, as per a study published in the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse. It can also impair sexual function. While not every abuse survivor develops PTSD, a fear of sex, or intimacy, these factors may contribute to the fear in some people.

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3. Erectile dysfunction (ED)

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is defined as difficulty achieving and maintaining an erection. Although treatable, it may cause feelings of embarrassment, shame, or worry. Someone with ED may not want to communicate this with another person. Depending on the intensity of the feelings, a person may develop a dread of sexual intimacy, says psychiatrist and psychotherapist Dr Jyoti Kapoor.

4. Fear of sexual performance

“Some people are concerned about whether they are good in bed. This can create severe psychological distress, prompting individuals to avoid sexual intimacy entirely for fear of ridicule or bad performance, explains the expert.

5. Body shame

Body shame or feeling self-conscious can hurt sexual satisfaction and induce anxiety. Some people with significant body shame or dysmorphia may view their bodies as imperfect although they appear normal to others, according to a study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry. People with these problems may avoid or fear sexual relations entirely due to the lack of pleasure and profound embarrassment it causes them.

Symptoms of fear of sex

These symptoms can vary in intensity from person to person. Here are some common symptoms of erotophobia, as explained by the expert.

  • You may avoid situations where sex or sexual topics are discussed or implied.
  • This avoidance can extend to intimate relationships, sexual education classes, or even media that depict sexual content.
  • Physical symptoms of anxiety such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, or feeling nauseous may occur when confronted with sexual situations or discussions.
  • Persistent and irrational fear or dread related to sex or sexual activities, even when there is no immediate threat.
  • Intrusive thoughts or worries about sexual performance, sexual health, or the consequences of engaging in sexual activities.
  • Difficulties in forming or maintaining intimate relationships due to avoidance of sexual intimacy or discomfort discussing sexual needs and preferences.
  • Chronic anxiety or depression related to feelings of inadequacy, fear of rejection, or the perceived threat of sexual intimacy.

How to overcome fear of sex?

Here are some effective tips to manage the symptoms, as explained by the expert.

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1. Sexual education

Education about human sexuality, sexual health, and normal sexual functioning can demystify fears and misconceptions. This can be done through reputable sources like books, workshops, or credible online resources.

2. Addressing misconceptions about sex

Addressing irrational beliefs or misconceptions about sex such as viewing it as shameful, dirty, or dangerous is crucial. This way, one can help in identifying and changing these negative beliefs about getting intimate.

3. Have open communication

Improving communication skills, especially in discussing sexual topics with partners or healthcare providers, can help in expressing needs, setting boundaries, and seeking support when necessary.

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Communicate your fear of sex to your partner! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

4. Meditation and relaxation approaches

Deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation are all mindfulness and relaxation strategies that can help people regulate their anxiety and produce a sense of calm when confronted with sexual stimuli.

5. Group counselling

Group counselling can help people voice their sex-related fears, anxiety, and concerns. People suffering from erotophobia might find specific support groups online or you can talk to your therapist to help you find one.

Treatment of erotophobia

Although there is no specific treatment for this mental health disorder, some therapeutic techniques can help you control the symptoms:

1. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a common therapy strategy for addressing phobias. CBT assists individuals in identifying and challenging harmful thought patterns and beliefs connected with their fear. Individuals can learn to reframe their thinking and minimise anxiety by exposing themselves to sexual content or circumstances gradually and developing coping skills.

2. Sex therapy

Sex therapy can help people overcome sexual dysfunction and sex-related trauma. Sex therapists are authorised specialists that are trained to assist clients with sexual problems. Combining sex therapy and CBT can be an effective method to overcome your erotophobia.

Also Read: Sex therapy: Why it may save your relationship and how does it work

3. Pharmacological intervention

Medication, such as Xanax or Prozac, may occasionally be recommended to treat anxiety symptoms linked to erotophobia. Medications are typically used in conjunction with therapy. All medications should be taken exactly as directed by your healthcare practitioner.

With proper guidance, you can overcome the fear of sex and enjoy your life with your partner to the fullest.



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