Philophobia — a fear of love — can negatively affect your ability to have meaningful relationships. A painful breakup, divorce, abandonment or rejection during childhood or adulthood may make you afraid to fall in love. Psychotherapy (talk therapy) can help you overcome this specific phobic disorder.
People who have philophobia have a fear of love. This fear is so intense that they find it difficult, sometimes impossible, to form and maintain loving relationships. “Philos” is the Greek word for loving or beloved. “Phobos” (phobia) is the Greek word for fear.
Some people believe that Queen Elizabeth I of England had philophobia. She never married and became known as the Virgin Queen.
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Phobias are one of the more common anxiety disorders. People who have phobias develop extreme fears of things that won’t typically harm them. Philophobia is a specific phobia disorder. You become afraid of a certain situation: falling in love.
It’s hard knowing exactly how many people have a specific phobia, like philophobia. Many people may keep this fear to themselves or may not recognize they have it. We do know that about 1 in 10 American adults and 1 in 5 teenagers will deal with a specific phobia disorder at some point in their lives, though.
People designated female at birth (DFAB) are more likely to experience a phobia disorder. Risk factors include:
Often, people can trace their fear or phobia to traumatic childhood experiences. Philophobia may be a protective response. If you don’t allow yourself to develop loving feelings for someone, you lower your risk of heartache and pain.
Potential philophobia causes include:
People who fear love may react in different ways. You may:
When you experience feelings of love, you may have these physical symptoms:
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) helps mental health professionals like psychologists diagnose phobia disorders based on symptoms and how they impact your quality of life.
Healthcare providers use these criteria to diagnose a specific phobic disorder like philophobia:
You may also benefit from a type of exposure therapy known as systemic desensitization therapy. Exposure therapy helps more than 90% of people who have specific phobic disorders.
It works by:
A loveless life can affect your physical and mental health, putting you at risk for:
Call your healthcare provider if you experience:
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
It’s natural to want to protect yourself from pain. But problems arise if your fear of love causes physical or mental distress or affects your ability to build relationships. It should feel good to give and receive love. When philophobia causes you to be afraid of love, your world may become lonely. CBT and desensitization therapy can help you learn to deal with this fear. In time, you may be able to form intimate, loving relationships with partners, family members and friends.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/15/2022.
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