Gamophobia — a fear of commitment or fear of marriage — can keep you from enjoying meaningful relationships. A painful breakup, divorce or abandonment during childhood or adulthood may make you afraid to commit to someone you love. Psychotherapy (talk therapy) can help you overcome this commitment phobia.
People who have gamophobia have a fear of commitment. This fear is so intense that they often find it impossible to have long-term relationships. “Gamos” is the Greek word for marriage. “Phobos” (phobia) means fear.
Some people can’t commit to long-term plans like choosing a college, making a career choice or picking a place to live. This fear of commitment differs from gamophobia, which is specifically about personal relationships.
People with gamophobia may:
Phobias are a very common type of anxiety disorder. They cause you to have extreme thoughts or fears about things that aren’t truly harmful. Gamophobia is a specific phobic disorder, which means you’re afraid of a certain situation: marriage or commitment.
It’s hard to know exactly how many people have a specific phobia, like gamophobia (fear of commitment). Many people may keep this fear to themselves or may not recognize they have it. About 1 in 10 American adults and 1 in 5 teenagers will deal with a specific phobia disorder at some point in their lives.
Other risk factors for gamophobia include:
Many people have more than one phobia. Usually, the phobias have some common tie. For instance, someone with a fear of commitment may also have:
Many people trace their fear of commitment or fear of marriage to past traumatic experiences. Gamophobia can be a protective response. You can’t experience heartache if you don’t allow yourself to commit to a long-term relationship.
Potential gamophobia causes include:
If you have gamophobia, you may experience these physical symptoms when you think about making a commitment to another person:
Healthcare providers use a mental health evaluation to diagnose gamophobia. There isn’t a specific test to diagnose gamophobia. Your provider will ask you about your symptoms, mental health history and whether you have other phobias. They may refer you to a mental health professional who specializes in phobias and anxiety disorders.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy (talk therapy), helps many people overcome commitment phobia. CBT gets to the underlying cause of the thoughts that make you fear commitment. A mental health professional helps you change these negative perceptions into positive perceptions about commitment and marriage. You also learn how to best communicate with your loved ones about this phobia.
You may also get systemic desensitization therapy. This type of exposure therapy helps most people overcome specific phobic disorders.
Constantly pushing away people you love or running away from relationships can negatively affect your physical and mental health. You may experience:
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Many people have doubts (what’s known as cold feet) when entering into a committed relationship. But for people with gamophobia, the fear can be paralyzing. It can keep you from moving forward in a relationship or establishing intimate bonds with others. If you’ve experienced heartache, gamophobia may be a way to protect yourself from feeling that pain again. A therapist can help you learn to let go of this fear. In time, you can be in a committed relationship.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/22/2022.
Learn more about our editorial process.