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

Some people find it easier to trust, while others are more cautious and take a long time before placing their trust in a person. But for a certain group of people, trusting another person might feel like an impossible feat.

People who suffer from pistanthrophobia have a deep-seated, irrational fear of trusting people, forming close romantic relationships, and being vulnerable in interpersonal connections. While it is not recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), it is a term that has gained popularity in recent years.

Phobias, irrespective of type, can cause extreme distress and disruption to people’s lives – straining professional and personal relationships, shattering self-esteem, and disrupting daily routines.

The following article will explore pistanthrophobia’s symptoms, causes, and treatment options.


What is pistanthrophobia?

Pistanthrophobia is the fear of trusting others, typically arising from a traumatic ending to a romantic relationship. Due to their maltreatment, sufferers of pistanthrophobia are often extremely reluctant to trust others.

In order to qualify as a phobia, the fear must be deemed persistent, irrational, and not rooted in reality. [1] Sufferers are typically not in any actual danger, but nonetheless, their perception of reality causes them to feel distressed.

People with pisanthrophobia often think that people are being unfaithful or untrue and may jump to sudden, irrational conclusions about other people’s motives. This can lead to them intentionally steer clear of situations with potential love interests. Alternatively, they may suffer from constant jealousy if they see their partner make any kind of contact with someone of the opposite gender. They live in a constant state of suspicion and stress.

All phobias can disrupt a person’s professional and personal life, but pistanthrophobia is uniquely harmful as it makes it very challenging to cooperate with other people. Forging relationships is central to our work and personal lives. Trust is integral to any relationship and thus the inability to trust others can make it nearly impossible to maintain relationships of any kind.

Treatment for pisanthrophobia can be an important step in improving a person’s quality of life and allowing them to have meaningful relationships.

Symptoms of pistanthrophobia

Pistanthrophobia, like any phobia, needs to be identified by a trained mental health provider. That said, there are some behaviors that are commonly seen among people with pistanthrophobia. These include:

  • Avoidance of contact with a potential love interest
  • Being standoffish, guarded,or tight-lipped with any potential love interest
  • Showing no interest in romantically motivated interactions,such as flirting or dating
  • Avoiding intimate conversations at all costs
  • Ruminating over any conversation regarding relationships

There are also physical symptoms associated with all phobias that may occur when a person’s pistanthrophobia is triggered. These include: [2]

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Faintness
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Tightness in chest
  • Palpitations
  • Overwhelming sense of anxiety
  • Trembling
  • Excessive panic or fear disproportionate to the situation

Potential causes of pistanthrophobia

Phobias are typically brought on by specific situations or objects that are termed triggers. There may be specific triggers that vary from person to person, but generally, a phobia of trusting others is brought on by a traumatic experience in a past relationship.

A person may feel so scarred by the feeling of rejection that they live in terror that it could happen again. This could lead to them avoiding any situation where they feel they might have to entertain the notion of trusting others.

Another potential cause of pistanthrophobia is a history of abuse. Being in an emotionally, physically, or psychologically abusive relationship can erode one’s trust in others. Survivors of abuse may develop pistanthrophobia as a way to shield themselves from further harm.

Some people with pistanthrophobia may not have experienced a traumatic relationship – romantic or otherwise. These people typically have high levels of anxiety, low self-esteem, and a fear that if anyone were to get to know them, they would reject them.

Diagnosing pistanthrophobia

Pistanthrophobia is not the official name of the diagnosis recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Instead, pistanthrophobia would be considered a specific phobia.

The diagnostic criteria for a specific phobia include: [1]

  • Experienceintense distress that lasts for 6 or more months.
  • Concern a specific object or situation.
  • Cause a sufferer to avoid situations or people who may trigger the fear.
  • The fear must bedisproportionate to the actual threat of the situation.
  • The fear must cause significant distress and dysfunctionin one or more areas of a person’s life
  • The fear must occurimmediately when the stimulus is encountered.
  • Not be better explained by a separate mental health condition.

If the mental health professional determines that your fear of trusting others meets the above criteria, they will most likely diagnose you with a specific phobia which is a clinical anxiety disorder.  

Pistanthrophobia vs philophobia: What’s the difference?

Pistanthrophobia and philophobia are both related to fears and anxieties in the context of romantic or interpersonal relationships, but they are distinct in their focus.

While both pistanthrophobia and philophobia involve fear and anxiety in the realm of interpersonal relationships, pistanthrophobia specifically revolves around trust issues and a fear of trusting others, while philophobia encompasses a broader fear of falling in love and emotional attachment.

People with pisanthrophobia struggle to form emotional connections and professional relationships with others due to their inability to trust that others are being genuine and honest. They will go to great lengths to avoid situations where they have to place trust in others or even discuss trust.

However, people with philophobia only avoid romantic relationships and situations and they are able to trust people in other scenarios.

Pistanthrophobia treatment

Pisanthrophobia is a limiting phobia that significantly impairs your ability to form connections with other people. While being careful with whom you trust can be considered prudent up to a point, harboring a fear of trusting others is extremely debilitating. Luckily, there are a range of treatments open for all phobias, including therapeutic approaches, self-care strategies, and medication.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is often the primary approach used to treat phobias, including pisanthrophobia, among other mental health conditions. [2] A therapist helps individuals identify negative thought patterns and beliefs related to trust and relationships.

Through CBT, individuals can learn to challenge and reframe these thoughts and develop a more rational outlook on trusting others. Success requires a structured approach and is dependent on the patient committing wholeheartedly to the treatment. If they do, research shows that therapy helps over 90% of people who do it faithfully. [2]

Exposure therapy

A subtype of behavioral therapy, Exposure therapy, involves gradually exposing patients to whatever triggers their phobia. [2]

In the case of pisanthrophobia, where anxiety stems from the idea of trusting others, a therapist may start by asking you to imagine being in a relationship and how it may feel to confide in another person and care for them.

Together with the therapist, you will further assess your fear of trusting others, writing a list of specific situations that trigger your fear of trust, such as:

  • Sharing personal information with a friend.
  • Attending a social gathering where youdon’t know many people.
  • Letting a romantic partner in on a personal secret.

Throughout your exposure therapy, you will experience situations that feel anxiety-inducing, learning to reframe negative thoughts and beliefs related to trust. For example, instead of thinking, ‘he/she will betray me’, you will be asked to reframe the thought to something like this, ‘not everyone is false, and I have the power to discern who is worthy of my trust’.

Exposure therapy for pistanthrophobia should be conducted under the guidance of a trained therapist who can tailor the treatment to the individual’s needs and progress. The therapy’s pace should be set by the person undergoing treatment to ensure they feel comfortable and safe throughout the process.


While medications aren’t typically considered useful in helping people overcome their phobias, the exceptions are benzodiazepines and beta-blockers. [2] These help reduce anxiety in people with certain phobias. It is important to note that benzodiazepines do not eliminate phobias, rather they can be helpful in managing anxiety related to a phobia.

Self-help strategies

Self-help strategies can be a valuable complement to professional therapy for individuals dealing with pistanthrophobia. While self-help techniques may not replace therapy, they can aid in managing anxiety and building trust in relationships. Here are some tips: [3]

  • Lifestyle changes: Making changes to your life can help reduce the symptoms of pistanthrophobia. These may include regular exercise, a nutritious diet, a good sleep schedule,and a reduced caffeine intake.
  • Mindfulness and relaxation: Practice mindfulness techniques, meditation, or relaxation exercises to manage anxiety and stay grounded in the present moment.
  • Visualization: Combining relaxation and breathing techniques with mentally visualizing how you’ll feel in a future unburdened by anxiety.
  • Self-help groups: Meeting others with pistanthrophobia and sharing stories. You may be able to pick up coping strategies from someone with a similar experience.
  • Journaling: Keep a journal to track your thoughts, feelings, and experiences related to trust and relationships. While this may feel difficult, it can help you identify patterns and gain insights into your fears.

What to do if you have pistanthrophobia

If you or a loved one is dealing with a pistanthrophobia, or any phobia, there is a wealth of support available to you.

There are many therapists, psychologists, and other mental health providers with a wealth of experience in helping people with their phobias. They can work on a treatment plan tailored to your needs enabling you to live a fulfilling life free from the anxiety brought on by your phobia.

Feeling unable to trust others and avoiding even talking about the issue of trust can feel demoralizing and distressing. It impacts your romantic life, professional life, and your friendships. Addressing the causes of your pistanthrophobia with a trained professional is the first step to overcoming it and building healthy relationships going forward.

  1. Barnhill, J. W. (2023c, August 30). Specific phobias. MSD Manual Consumer Version. https://www.msdmanuals.com/home/mental-health-disorders/anxiety-and-stress-related-disorders/specific-phobias
  2. Samra CK, Abdijadid S. Specific Phobia. [Updated 2023 May 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499923/
  3. Website, N. (2022b, August 10). Self-help – phobias. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/phobias/self-help/
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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 24th 2023, Last edited: Oct 24th 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 24th 2023
Medical Reviewer Medical Reviewer:
Morgan Blair
Last reviewed: Oct 24th 2023 Morgan Blair