Genuphobia (Fear of Knees)

People with genuphobia, a fear of knees, may be repulsed by how knees look. Or they may worry about their vulnerability to knee injuries, like ACL tears and knee dislocations. They may experience anxiety when seeing or touching knees, crossing legs or having to kneel. Psychotherapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy can help.


What is genuphobia?

People who have genuphobia have a fear of knees or knee injuries. “Genu” is the Latin word for knees, while “phobus” (phobia) is Greek for fear.


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What do people with genuphobia fear?

Someone with genuphobia may be:

  • Disgusted by the appearance of knees, including their own.
  • Repulsed if someone else’s knees brush against them.
  • Scared to touch their knees or someone else’s knees.
  • Terrified of having to kneel or cross their legs.
  • Unreasonably afraid of having a knee injury.

What is a phobia?

Phobias are a common anxiety disorder. They cause a powerful fear of something that isn’t truly threatening. Genuphobia is specific phobic disorder, which means you have a fear of a certain object — in this case, knees or knee injuries.


How common is genuphobia?

It’s hard knowing exactly how many people have a specific phobia, like genuphobia (fear of knees). 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.

Symptoms and Causes

Who is at risk for genuphobia?

Specific phobic disorders often develop in childhood. They affect women more than men. Risk factors include:

  • Family history: Your chances of developing a phobia are greater if a parent or close relative has one.
  • Genetics: There’s some evidence that a gene mutation or change makes some people more prone to anxiety disorders and phobias.


What other phobias are associated with genuphobia?

It’s fairly common to have more than one related phobia. Other phobias that may occur along with genuphobia include:

  • Basiphobia: Fear of falling.
  • Bathmophobia: Fear of stairs or slopes that can cause you to trip and injure your knee.
  • Dystychiphobia: Fear of having an accident like slipping.
  • Genophobia: Fear of sex or sexual intimacy because you might see or touch knees.
  • Traumatophobia: Fear of any injury.

Why do I have a fear of knees?

Some people are repulsed by the bony appearance of knees. The idea of seeing or touching knees (their own or someone else’s), kneeling or crossing legs brings on feelings of disgust, anxiety or fear.

If you were brought up in a culture or religion that required covering knees, you may have a hard time not thinking of exposed knees as sinful or bad. Seeing exposed knees may make you feel anxious or frightened.

Someone with genuphobia may view their knees as a weak part of their body that’s vulnerable to injuries. This fear may result from an earlier traumatic knee injury that happened while skiing, playing sports or in a car accident. Or you may have cared for someone recovering from a knee injury or procedure. For some people, seeing a horrific blow to the knees in a movie (like breaking kneecaps) can bring on genuphobia.

A person with genuphobia may be afraid of experiencing these types of knee injuries or procedures:

What are the symptoms of genuphobia?

Someone with a fear of knees or knee injuries is usually aware that the phobia is illogical. Still, they’re unable to control their physical reactions when they’re exposed to knees or think about knee injuries.

Genuphobia symptoms vary from person to person. You may experience:

Diagnosis and Tests

How is genuphobia diagnosed?

The American Psychiatric Association doesn’t recognize fear of knees or fear of knee injuries as a phobic disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Still, help is available. A psychologist or other mental health professional can diagnose genuphobia based on your symptoms.

Your healthcare provider considers these criteria to make a specific phobic disorder diagnosis:

  • Feelings of dread, fear or anxiety when you see knees, touch knees or think about knee injuries despite knowing you aren’t in danger.
  • Chronic fear of knees or injuries that lasts for at least six months.
  • Immediate symptoms when you’re exposed to knees or think about knee injuries.
  • Behavior changes to avoid kneeling, crossing legs or having to see, touch or think about knees.
  • Severe symptoms that interfere with your ability to work, socialize and enjoy life.

Management and Treatment

How do you treat fear of knees?

Your mental health professional can help you overcome a fear of knees or knee injuries. You may benefit from these treatments:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you change your thoughts and responses to events that may have led to this phobia. It’s a form of psychotherapy or talk therapy.
  • Exposure therapy involves gradual, continued exposures to knees to desensitize you to the fear. Most people with specific phobias improve with exposure therapy.
  • Hypnotherapy uses guided relaxation techniques to help you change your perceptions and responses to knees.
  • Anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants may help while you’re getting therapy. Your healthcare provider may also recommend beta-blockers like propranolol (Inderal®) to reduce physical symptoms of anxiety. These medicines can ease fears when you know you’ll be exposed to knees, like a trip to the beach.

What are the complications of genuphobia?

An extreme fear of seeing knees may lead you to stay home to avoid any potential exposure. This fear of leaving a safe place can lead to another phobia called agoraphobia.

You may become sedentary to lower your risk of a knee injury. But inactivity can lead to obesity, diabetes and other serious health problems.

Genuphobia may also increase your risk of:

Living With

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 problems with substances.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

You may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • What’s causing this phobia?
  • What’s the best treatment for me?
  • Should I try exposure therapy?
  • How long will I need therapy?
  • Can medications help?
  • Should I watch for signs of complications?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

With few exceptions, almost all of us have knees. That makes it difficult to avoid exposure to knees, especially during the summer when people wear shorts and skirts. Genuphobia can make it hard for you to work, socialize, shop, exercise and engage in your world. A mental health specialist can help you overcome a fear of knees through therapy and medications.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 03/22/2022.

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