Oct 24th 2023
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.
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.  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.
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:
There are also physical symptoms associated with all phobias that may occur when a person’s pistanthrophobia is triggered. These include: 
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.
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: 
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 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.
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.
CBT is often the primary approach used to treat phobias, including pisanthrophobia, among other mental health conditions.  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. 
A subtype of behavioral therapy, Exposure therapy, involves gradually exposing patients to whatever triggers their phobia. 
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:
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.  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 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: 
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.
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.
MentalHealth.com is a patient-first health technology company driven by its mission to make optimal mental health attainable for everyone. With a focus on expanding care access, empowering patient choice, and enhancing care quality, the company delivers innovative solutions that support individuals throughout their mental health journey.