Men usually feel attracted to beautiful women. However, there are some individuals who have an irrational fear of attractive women and may experience extreme anxiety and panic attacks. Let’s take a look at Venustraphobia, the fear of beautiful women.
What Is Venustraphobia?
Venustraphobia, also known as Caligynephobia, is an excessive and illogical fear of beautiful women. The term venustraphobia comes from the word Venus, the Roman goddess of love and fertility; and the Greek term phobos meaning fear. Similarly, the word Caligynephobia is derived from the Greek terms ‘calos’ meaning beautiful, ‘gyne’ which means woman, and phobos meaning fear. Although it is a rare condition, it is different from the normal anxiety and nervousness most people feel while on a date with a beautiful woman.
MindJournal explains that “People with this condition may experience panic attacks and may engage in intentional self‐embarrassment at the mere thought or sight of beautiful women.” This condition is generally observed in heterosexual men. However, heterosexual and homosexual women may also experience this phobia. It can also affect both children and adults as well.
How It Affects Us?
Although some people feel intensely anxious in the presence of attractive individuals of the opposite sex, people having venustraphobia experience uncontrollable fear and anxiety when they think about, see or interact with a good-looking woman. However, they don’t necessarily need to be in the presence of women to feel anxious. Moreover, they may not have any sexual or emotional interest in the woman they are afraid of. But as attractiveness and beauty are subjective, a person’s fear of a deemed “beautiful” woman may not make sense to their friends and family.
For the phobic individual, the anxiety and fear they experience can be so intrusive and intensive that they may even feel physically sick simply by looking at a beautiful woman. It has been observed that people with venustraphobia may lack self-confidence, have a poor self-image and low self-esteem. They are often incapable of managing their own thoughts, perceptions, behaviour and reactions when they are around gorgeous-looking women. Moreover, they may experience sweating, shakiness, rapid breathing, palpitations and a racing mind. They also tend to become highly self-critical and frustrated around women as they are unable to control their reactions.
Social Anxiety & Venustraphobia
Individuals suffering from this condition also suffer from some kind of social anxiety. As beauty is subjective, their fear of seemingly “attractive” women can adversely affect their social life and personal relationships. Moreover, people having social anxiety disorder 1 (SAD) or social phobia may also experience symptoms of venustraphobia. This is mostly due to previous traumatic experiences related to beautiful women.
Symptoms Of Venustraphobia
Intense anxiety is one of the most common symptoms of all specific phobias. However, a person with venustraphobia may also experience self-hatred & depression and narcissistic behaviour. A sufferer can experience the following physical, emotional and/or psychological symptoms when they are affected by this condition:
1. Physical symptoms
An episode can lead to these physical symptoms-
- Shaking & trembling
- Shortness of breath
- Sweaty hands
- Dizziness, nausea and vomiting
2. Emotional symptoms
As people with this phobia are vulnerable to being ridiculed and embarrassed by others, they may experience the following:
- Intense anxiety
- Psychosis or loss of reality
- Feeling like being choked
- Fear of embarrassing themselves
- Thoughts of death or dying
- Feeling as if they will pass out, have a stroke or go blind
- Avoiding situations where beautiful women are present
- Self-criticism, regret and shame
- Poor self-image & low self-esteem
- Isolation and loneliness
3. Psychological symptoms
A person with venustraphobia may also experience the adverse effects of coitophobia, the fear of sexual intercourse, or even kolpophobia, the fear of female genitals. Other mental issues associated with this condition that can worsen their phobic experience, include obsessive compulsive disorder 2 (OCD) and generalized anxiety disorder 3 (GAD).
Causes Of Venustraphobia
The exact causes for the development of venustraphobia have not yet been identified. However, genetics 4, environment and childhood experiences may significantly influence the development of this condition. If an individual has parents or grandparents with mental disorders, like phobias or anxiety disorders, then they are likely to develop venustraphobia. Someone, who is vulnerable with a genetic risk, may trigger their phobia due to certain environmental factors or traumatizing experiences.
Experiences like a divorce or breakup or unrequited love can make them develop a disconnection with a beautiful woman. Moreover, rejection or being humiliated publicly by an attractive woman can also lead to the development of this phobia. Any major experience that deeply affects an individual on an emotional and personal level can be a significant contributing factor. Relationship abuse and trauma can also make someone develop venustraphobia.
Moreover, societal impact is also a key factor. In most cultures, beautiful women are generally highly valued and much sought after. Such women often have the reputation of being arrogant, spoiled or cold-hearted. This may also leave a strong impact on someone’s mind regarding the perception and impression they may have about good-looking women. Apart from these, people with certain psychological issues and anxiety disorders like GAD and OCD, are likely to suffer from venustraphobia. Poor self-image and very low self-esteem can also be significant contributing factors in the development of this condition.
Diagnostic Criteria Of Venustraphobia
Currently, there is no specific diagnosis available for this condition aside from the observation-based analysis of symptoms. However, a psychiatrist may diagnose someone based on certain specific factors of categorizing abnormal behaviour as a phobia. To be diagnosed with this disorder, the sufferer must experience the symptoms for at least 6 weeks or more.
Treatment Of Venustraphobia
Although there are no specific treatments for venustraphobia, most phobias can be treated by a combination of therapy, medications and self-help tools. Here are treatments options that can help someone suffering from this condition to recover:
There are a number of different psychotherapy techniques available to treat this disorder:
A. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Talk therapy or CBT can be highly effective in treating venustraphobia as this method helps to alter the patient’s perception of the threat associated with beautiful women. Moreover, it also teaches them strategies to overcome anxiety and panic that comes with this phobia. A 2015 study 5 has found that “CBT appears to be both efficacious and effective in the treatment of anxiety disorders,” and phobias.
Talk therapy can effectively help the patient to –
- Recognise irrational behaviour and thought patterns and find ways to change them
- Resolve complicated feelings, and find ways to cope with the fear and anxiety
- Understand themselves better and build healthy self-esteem
B. Exposure Therapy
Exposure therapy 6 is perhaps the most common and effective treatment option available for any type of phobia. The process involves a therapist gradually exposing the patient to images and videos of beautiful women repetitively in a controlled setting. As the sufferer becomes desensitized to their illogical fear, the therapist may ask the patient to meet and interact with beautiful women to desensitize themselves further and overcome their fear.
C. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
DBT 7 can be highly helpful and beneficial for people struggling with emotion regulation. A technique called “half smiling” is used where the patient is asked to smile when they start feeling anxiety due to their phobia. It helps to prevent negative thoughts and emotions from arising and thus regulates their phobic reaction to beautiful women.
Hypnosis is also an effective treatment technique for coping with phobias. Hypnotherapy can not only help to reveal the traumatic experiences that led to the development of venustraphobia, but it can also enable the patients to recover from them. Moreover, it also helps to rationalize their fear and irrational thoughts.
Medications, along with therapy, can help someone suffering from this phobia to overcome their fear of beautiful women. Some of the most common medicines prescribed by psychiatrist and therapists include:
- Anti-anxiety medicines, which help to reduce feelings of intense anxiety and panic attacks.
- Antidepressants 8, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which can be highly effective in the treatment of phobias like venustraphobia.
However, the patient must always consult a mental health professional or a primary care physician before taking any medication or therapy.
Beauty Should Be Appreciated, Not Feared
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Once the sufferer is able to shift their perspective and irrational beliefs, they can learn to appreciate beautiful women instead of feeling afraid and worried about them.
Recovery from venustraphobia is possible. It is not necessary for someone to feel the effects of their crippling fear and allow it to affect the quality of their life 9. With a combination of therapy and medication, you can overcome your fear to build a normal social life and develop healthy relationships with women that you find attractive and beautiful.References:
- National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (UK). Social Anxiety Disorder: Recognition, Assessment and Treatment. Leicester (UK): British Psychological Society; 2013. (NICE Clinical Guidelines, No. 159.) 2, SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK327674/
- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Obsessive-compulsive disorder: Overview. 2008 Oct 24 [Updated 2017 Oct 19]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279562/
- Munir S, Takov V. Generalized Anxiety Disorder. [Updated 2020 Nov 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441870/
- Garcia R. (2017). Neurobiology of fear and specific phobias. Learning & memory (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.), 24(9), 462–471. https://doi.org/10.1101/lm.044115.116
- Kaczkurkin, A. N., & Foa, E. B. (2015). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders: an update on the empirical evidence. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 17(3), 337–346. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2015.17.3/akaczkurkin
- Marks I. Exposure therapy for phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Hosp Pract. 1979 Feb;14(2):101-8. doi: 10.1080/21548331.1979.11707486. PMID: 34562.
- Chapman A. L. (2006). Dialectical behavior therapy: current indications and unique elements. Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township), 3(9), 62–68.
- Farach, F. J., Pruitt, L. D., Jun, J. J., Jerud, A. B., Zoellner, L. A., & Roy-Byrne, P. P. (2012). Pharmacological treatment of anxiety disorders: current treatments and future directions. Journal of anxiety disorders, 26(8), 833–843. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2012.07.009
- Wittchen HU, Beloch E. The impact of social phobia on quality of life. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 1996 Jun;11 Suppl 3:15-23. doi: 10.1097/00004850-199606003-00004. PMID: 8923105.