Gamophobia (Fear of Commitment)
What is gamophobia?
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:
- Be unable to form lasting intimate relationships.
- Experience extreme anxiety when in a relationship and constantly worry about the relationship ending.
- Feel anxiety when they see a happily committed couple.
- Push people away or end relationships abruptly.
What is a phobia?
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.
How common is gamophobia?
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.
Symptoms and Causes
Who is at risk for gamophobia?
Other risk factors for gamophobia include:
- Family history: Growing up with a parent or loved one who has a phobia or anxiety disorder may lead you to develop the same or similar fears.
- Biological sex: People designated female at birth (DFAB) tend to develop specific phobic disorders more often than those designated male at birth (DMAB).
- Genetics: Preliminary research suggests that certain people have a gene change (gene mutation) that increases their risk for anxiety or phobic disorders.
What other phobias are associated with commitment phobia?
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:
- Philophobia (fear of love).
- Pistanthrophobia (fear of trusting others or being hurt by someone you love).
- Genophobia (fear of sex or sexual intimacy).
- Fear of abandonment.
Why do I have a fear of commitment?
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:
- Parental discord: Children who witness their parents’ contentious divorce or relationship may grow up fearful of making a commitment that leads to the same conflicts.
- Previous heartbreaks: Adults who experience heartache from a breakup, divorce or infidelity may shy away from getting involved with someone again. Over time, their choice can become fear.
- Fear of missing out: Some people may worry about committing to the wrong person and not being available when the right partner comes along.
- Cultural or religious pressures: Certain cultures arrange marriages without taking love and other emotions into consideration. You may be afraid to fully commit to the relationship because you didn’t have a say in choosing your partner. Someone who is LGBTQ+ may fear marriage if their religion or culture opposes the union.
What are gamophobia symptoms?
If you have gamophobia, you may experience these physical symptoms when you think about making a commitment to another person:
Diagnosis and Tests
How is gamophobia diagnosed?
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.
Management and Treatment
How do you get over fear of commitment?
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.
- Teaches you how to use relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises and meditation to manage symptoms.
- Gradually exposes you to the idea of making a commitment.
- Gives you real-world tasks to help you become more comfortable committing to a long-term relationship.
What are the complications of gamophobia?
Constantly pushing away people you love or running away from relationships can negatively affect your physical and mental health. You may experience:
When should I call the doctor?
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
- Panic attacks.
- Persistent anxiety that interferes with daily life or sleeping.
- Signs of depression or substance use problems.
What questions should I ask my doctor?
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- What is causing this phobia?
- What is the best treatment for me?
- Should I try psychotherapy?
- How long will I need therapy?
- Should I watch for signs of complications?
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.
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