Samir Kadri
Author: Samir Kadri Medical Reviewer: Morgan Blair Last updated:

Erotophobia is a complex phobia of sex and sexual intimacy, with sufferers affected in many different, intricate ways. Sufferers may experience multiple sexual anxieties, both physical and mental.

If left untreated, erotophobia can be immensely taxing on a person’s mental health and disrupt both their relationships and professional lives. They may isolate themselves from family, friends, and colleagues due to the distressing impact of the phobia.


What is erotophobia?

Erotophobia is clinically recognized as a specific phobia. It refers to an irrational fear of sex or sexual intimacy. To meet the DSM-V’s criteria for this phobia, a fear of sex must be persistent and excessive, and last for 6 months or more. [1]

Unlike fears, which might be manageable or even rational, phobias are excessive and can be triggered by specific objects, situations, or concepts, often causing extreme anxiety.

Your brain goes into overdrive, overestimating the danger posed by a specific stimulus, causing you to have an irrationally intense aversion to it. [1]

It is not simply someone feeling nervous or anxious about a sexual encounter as this kind of fear is common and, in some cases, to be expected. You must be medically diagnosed with erotophobia. Its impact can cause severe distress and impair a person’s ability to function. [2]

Symptoms of erotophobia

There are many ways someone’s erotophobia may be triggered and people’s phobia of sex or situations manifests in different ways. Symptoms may include:

  • Avoidance of physical intimacy.
  • Avoidance of situations that involve sexual content or discussion (g.,certain movies, conversations, or books).
  • Negative attitude towards sex, such as finding it sinful or disgusting.
  • Anxiety or distress when exposed to sex or conversations about sex.
  • Low self-esteem due to feeling like a social outcast.
  • Feelings of shame or embarrassment around the subject of sex.
  • Physical symptoms,such as palpitations, shortness of breath, or a racing heart when faced with sexual situations or discourse.
  • Body image issues
  • Isolating oneself due to feelings of shame and embarrassment.

Similar phobias

People with erotophobia may have other phobias related to specific aspects of sex. Below is a list of examples:


Genophobia, also known as coitophobia, is the fear of sexual intercourse. [3] People with genophobia may enjoy other physical aspects of romantic affection, such as cuddling, fondling, or kissing. However, they have an irrational aversion to the act of intercourse itself.

Erotophobia is a broader phobia encompassing aversions to all aspects of sex – physical, emotional, or psychological. Genophobia specifically refers to a phobia of the physical act of sexual intercourse.


Haphephobia is an irrational fear of being touched. [4] It is an extremely restrictive phobia affecting all aspects of human relationships, not only sexual ones. The phobia is not limited to physical contact with other people, as sufferers may also have an aversion to touching any external object.

Physical abuse, sexual assault, or another form of trauma may precipitate haphephobia [4], but it can also be brought on by other stimuli.


Gynmnophobia, the fear of nudity, may cause sufferers to recoil from other’s naked bodies or their own. This phobia should not be confused with someone feeling insecure about their body. Gymnophobia is an irrational, distress-inducing phobia of nudity.


Paraphobia is an irrational fear of sexual perversion. Sufferers may fear the perverted acts of others or worry about conducting perverted acts themselves. Some may enjoy sexual relationships, but only ones that conform to the personal rules they outline prior – others may avoid any aspect of sex that they consider perverted.


Philemaphobia is the irrational fear of kissing. It may be related to a wider fear of germs, bodily odors, or intimacy. It can also be characteristic of haphephobia.


This is the fear of an erect penis. Men may be averse to having an erection, whereas women might be irrationally fearful of seeing or touching a man’s erect penis.


Eurotophobia is the fear of a woman’s genitals. Women may fear anyone coming near their own vagina or coming into contact with it themselves. Both men and women may also avoid topics of anyone else’s vagina and maintain physical distance at all costs.

Causes of erotophobia

Erotophobia can have various underlying causes. These causes can be complex and may include a combination of psychological, cultural, and personal factors, including:

Sexual trauma

Traumatic or negative sexual experiences, such as sexual abuse, assault, or coercion, can lead to a fear of sexual situations. These experiences can create a strong association between sex and negative emotions, leading to avoidance and fear of intimacy.


Fear of abandonment can lead to difficulties in trusting others and forming secure attachments. This can extend to intimate relationships, including sexual intimacy, causing a person to irrationally avoid a potential sexual partner for fear of abandonment. In this way, the irrational fear of getting close to someone and being vulnerable emotionally or physically can manifest as erotophobia.

Cultural or religious upbringing

Upbringing in a culture or religious environment that places a strong emphasis on abstinence, modesty, or strict sexual norms can contribute to the development of erotophobia. [5]

Religions typically regard sexual intercourse as a means of procreation, with recreational sex often frowned upon. Messages that portray sex as sinful, immoral, or taboo may cause erotophobia in religiously indoctrinated people.

Physical causes

People may worry that an underlying physical condition, such as sexual dysfunction, will impact their ability to have sex; this can occur irrespective of whether someone has been diagnosed with sexual dysfunction. These can lead to the anxious, distress-inducing avoidant behaviors characteristics of erotophobia. [6]

Diagnosing erotophobia

According to the DSM-V, the diagnosis of a phobia requires all of the following criteria to be satisfied: [7]

  • A fear or anxiety about a specific object or stimulus- in erotophobia’s case – sex.
  • The phobic stimulus always causes immediate anxiety or
  • The fear isout of proportion to the threat of the stimulus.
  • The phobic stimulus isactively avoided or endured with immense fear or anxiety.
  • The resulting fear, anxiety,or avoidance causes significant distress or impairment to a person’s ability to function professionally or socially.
  • The fear, anxiety,or avoidance is deemed persistent and lasts for six months or more.
  • The symptoms of the phobia are not better explained by a separate mental health disorder.

Treatment for erotophobia

Erotophobia is a complex, pervasive condition and professional treatment may help you manage and overcome your irrational fear of sex or sexual topics.

Seeking help from a qualified mental health professional, such as a psychologist or licensed therapist, may be beneficial. Following consultation, they can develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

The following therapeutic and medical options may prove beneficial:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is a therapeutic approach commonly used when treating phobias. [8] CBT helps individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns and beliefs associated with their fear. Through gradual exposure to sexual content or situations and the development of coping strategies, individuals can learn to reframe their thoughts and reduce anxiety.

Sex therapy

Sex therapy can help people navigate their way past sexual dysfunction and trauma related to sex they may have experienced. Sex therapists are licensed professionals who are trained to help people who have sexual troubles. Combining sex therapy with CBT can be a helpful way of confronting your erotophobia.

Pharmacological intervention

In some cases, medication, such as Prozac or Xanax, may be prescribed to help manage the symptoms of anxiety associated with erotophobia. Medication is usually used in conjunction with therapy. [8] All medication should be taken exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider.

How to cope with erotophobia

Living with erotophobia, like any phobia, can be challenging and distressing. However, there are some steps you can take to cope with its symptoms. People experience erotophobia differently, so its important to note that some of these measures may work better for you than others:

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation, can help individuals manage anxiety and promote a sense of calm when confronted with sexual stimuli.

Group counseling

Group counseling can provide a space for individuals to express their fears, anxieties, and concerns related to sexuality. There are specific support groups for people with erotophobia which can be sourced online.

Self-help strategies

Practicing self-help strategies, such as journaling, self-reflection, and self-compassion exercises, can complement formal therapy and aid in managing anxiety related to erotophobia.


If a partner, friend, or family member has erotophobia, educating yourself about the condition can help you empathize with them more effectively. This will enable you to better understand their fears, develop a more balanced perspective, and be a more effective support system.

  1. McNiff, S. (2022, February 2). Anxiety and Phobia: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment. Psycom.
  2. Barnhill, J. W. (2023, August 10). Specific phobias. MSD Manual Consumer Version.
  3. El-Hadidy, M. A., Eissa, A., & Zayed, A. (2016). Female circumcision as a cause of genophobia. Middle East Current Psychiatry, 23(1), 35–38.
  4. Nahar, S., Inam, M., & Miah, M. (2022). Haphephobia: a rare specific phobia of being touched. European Psychiatry, 65(Suppl 1), S391.
  5. Woodfield, K., Hayes, K., Sanders, J. N., & Debbink, M. P. (2021). 92. Association Between Religiosity, Erotophobia and Sexual Subjectivity in Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, 34(2), 276.
  6. Macapagal, K., & Janssen, E. (2011). The valence of sex: Automatic affective associations in erotophilia and erotophobia. Personality and Individual Differences, 51(6), 699–703.
  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Impact of the DSM-IV to DSM-5 Changes on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2016 Jun. Table 3.11, DSM-IV to DSM-5 Specific Phobia Comparison. Available from:
  8. (n.d.). Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Medical Content

Our Medical Affairs Team is a dedicated group of medical professionals with diverse and extensive clinical experience who actively contribute to the development of our content, products, and services. They meticulously evaluate and review all medical content before publication to ensure it is medically accurate and aligned with current discussions and research developments in mental health. For more information, visit our Editorial Policy.

About is a health technology company guiding people towards self-understanding and connection. The platform offers reliable resources, accessible services, and nurturing communities. Its mission involves educating, supporting, and empowering people in their pursuit of well-being.

Samir Kadri
Author Samir Kadri Writer

Samir Kadri is a medical writer with a non-profit sector background, committed to raising awareness about mental health.

Published: Oct 25th 2023, Last edited: Oct 25th 2023

Morgan Blair
Medical Reviewer Morgan Blair MA, LPCC

Morgan Blair is a licensed therapist, writer and medical reviewer, holding a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Northwestern University.

Content reviewed by a medical professional. Last reviewed: Oct 25th 2023