In this blog, we will look at the meaning, symptoms, causes and treatment of Androphobia.
What is Androphobia?
Androphobia means a fear of men. The term Androphobia originates from the Greek words: Andras-man and phobos-fear. The term has its roots in the feminist and lesbian-feminist movements that emerged in the mid-to-late 20th century. This erupted to balance the opposite term “gynophobia,” which means a fear of women.
Another term that ascended from the feminist and lesbian-feminist movements, is defined as a hatred of men, called Misandry.
Androphobia may revolve around 2 gender-altering and conflict-laden processes;
- homosocial (men against men)
- heterosocial (women against men)
both the processes are fueled by a ‘fear of masculinity.’
The person suffering from Androphobia will display symptoms of a near panic in nature if left alone with a man, even though ‘the man’ may be a close friend, a relative or even an immediate family member (dad, brother, uncle).
Research says that approximately 6 million people in the U.S. suffer from phobias. Women are twice as likely to suffer from them as men. Up to 28% of people suffer from phobias and still they are likely to be underreported. The true number may actually be different (higher).
Androphobia is the irrational and insistent fear of men; it affects both men and women and is mostly found in younger women. Androphobia may be an ‘instinctual response to potential danger’. Such a phobia can afflict men and women, but is typically seen in younger females.
Causes of Androphobia
The etiology of Androphobia includes a genetic predisposition towards developing intense fears or mostly in this case a traumatic event.
It could happen (and it does happen in 70% of these cases) that the sufferer has been a victim of rape or a sexual assault previously. These are highly traumatic experiences that women in particular and in some cases, men have to experience.
When a person is victimized as thus, the parts of the brain called amygdala and hypothalamus “learn” to recreate the same fear response that was present at the time of the event. These areas of the brain are also responsible for the physical responses to fear.
Reliving the entire trauma instigates panic and extreme fear, which in turn sends the body into a ‘flight and fright’ response. But as it happens with the victims of rape, the body closes down due to the concentrated fear. It is very common that after a trauma the victims have nightmares about men.
Sometimes, individuals may be able to lead normal lives despite their phobia; they may have male friends, but they might not form relationships with men or might feel very nervous working with men. Media also plays a pivotal role in helping develop Androphobia. TV shows showing female victims of domestic violence, movies and reports of rape, murders and kidnapping of women, all lead to develop Androphobia.
In most societies since childhood girls are taught to stay away from the opposite sex; boys and men alike. This is instilled in them by parents, grandparents or significant others. Therefore, without any prior knowledge or a valid reason telling them to stay away instills in them a fear of men. This ‘learnt’ fear is often continued into adulthood.
Symptoms of Androphobia
Androphobia is a specific and intense fear of men. It can be irrational in some cases or very real in some, greatly affecting the quality of life. The symptoms of Androphobia are displayed vehemently and resemble those of a full-blown panic attack.
- refusing to go outside in fear of an encounter with men
- Visiting only those places or events that have females.
- Rapid heartbeat (Tachycardia)
- Dry mouth
- Raised blood pressure
- Ringing sound in ears
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of fainting
- Mood swings
- Fear of dying
- Feeling of helplessness
- Feeling of hopelessness
Treatments of Androphobia
Androphobia can be treated through different treatments. These include Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Exposure Therapy (Systematic Desensitization), Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR) and forms of meditation.
Let’s take a look at these forms of treatments.
1) Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
In CBT the therapist helps the client to alter his thoughts so that a desirable behavior can be achieved. This therapy is effective, because if the thoughts or cognitions alter then there will be a lasting impact on behavior.
This therapy is goal oriented and short termed. Our thoughts determine how we act or react to certain stimuli and situations.
The goal of therapy is the application of the learnt strategies to everyday life. The duration of treatment is short and the effects are long lasting.
In cases of rape CBT will include Stress Inoculation Rape Therapy.
Stress Inoculation Rape Therapy
Stress inoculation rape therapy is used to treat people suffering from Androphobia, (rape victims) and displaying intense fear, anxiety as well as avoiding specific behaviors.
Stress inoculation rape therapy has three parts:
- Education – the victim is explained that fear is a normal response following trauma. It also educates about cues that may trigger fear (places that remind the victim of the rape).
- Skill building – rape victims suffering from Androphobia are taught to control their reactions physically and psychologically. For example, techniques like thought stopping, mental rehearsal and guided self-talk.
- Application – victims apply their new tact to engage. They are also educated to avoid self-criticism and manage avoidance behavior as well as reward themselves for their progress.
This seems to be successful in treating the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in rape victims.
Supportive Counseling Rape Therapy
Supportive counseling rape therapy is used in many crisis interventions. The therapist provides unconditional positive regard, active listening, and general support.
2) Systematic Desensitization (Exposure)
This is one of the most common therapies used in treating phobias and an effective way to desensitize the patient.
In this therapy the client with phobia is exposed to the phobic situation or stimulus gradually with varying durations of time. Every time the ‘exposure’ of the feared stimulus is increased.
In Androphobia the client is repeatedly exposed to memories of the traumatic event. The client is asked to imagine the actual rape event and also to recall the places that look the same as the actual place where the trauma occurred.
This therapy alleviates the stress as well as the guilt associated with the rape.
The therapist takes the client through these situations via two methods:
a) In vitro – where the feared sound is made to imagine
b) In vivo – where the client hears the feared sound in reality
The exposure to the phobic stimulus is of varying durations, where the client exercises relaxation techniques and can revert to a previous non-threatening situation any time.
3. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR involves being aware of one’s own thoughts, feelings and reducing the interference from around the environment. We do not pay attention to how we process the various stimuli that affect us. We do not process the way our bodies feel and respond, there is no focus on our thoughts and how these thoughts are influencing our emotions.
In MBSR, the client is ‘woken up’ to actually experience the various senses. ‘Focus’ is the keyword!
Yoga includes a holistic approach and treats the mind, body, emotions and energetic systems as a whole. In phobias, the practices of asana, hatha yoga, meditation and work to balance the nervous system and the endocrines, brings emotional and mental calm.
The client is taught to pay attention to his breathing – inhalation and exhalation.
For meditation to be effective during treatment, the mind is cleared off all the clutter of random thoughts. The mind and body are made to be ‘in sync’ with each other, so that the feared stimulus does not invoke a negative thought. The client will meditate during the exposure to men and with practice either in imagery first will be able to relieve himself of the symptoms.
5. Self-Help Groups
Self Help groups are an effective type of therapy, in which the client does not find himself as a lone sufferer. These groups are comprised of individuals who are afflicted with the Androphobia. They come together to share their thoughts, experiences and their coping strategies.
This also helps in developing a ‘sense of I am not the only one’ suffering. Thus, the chances of self-improvement and catering to own anxieties for alleviations becomes effective.
6. Changing Lifestyle
Breaking down the tedium of the daily, helps break down anxiety as well.
• Take up jogging or go for daily walks:
Developing a walk routine can damper the way our negative thoughts control our behavior.
• Indulging in an exercise regime:
Vigorous exercise like aerobics has proved to reduce or alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Exercise helps the mind to cope with stress and stressful situations better. This is what the American Psychological Association has to say about inducting exercise to eliminate stress or phobias.
• Altering eating and drinking habits:
Cutting down on fatty foods and caffeine can improve self-image, that in turn leads to a raised self-esteem. This finally diminishes the symptoms of stress to a bare minimum. With high intake of caffeine, the body resembles a ‘fight or flight’ response, thus giving way to anxiety.
7. Psychiatric Medication
There a number of medicines that the Psychiatrist can prescribe if the symptoms of Androphobia are severe.
1. Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)
These are the ones that rid the patients from symptoms of anxiety and panic. The medicines include Xanax, Klonopin and others. These should only be taken after the consultation with the doctor and shouldn’t be initiated or discontinued as per personal discretion.
These medicines are not only used to treat depression, but also to alleviate the symptoms of Androphobia as well as other phobias. Medicines alone might not be as effective, but if used in conjunction with therapies then the results will be better.
8. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This kind of therapy is used to regulate the emotions. A technique called “half-smiling” is used where the client is asked to lift the corners of his mouth when the feared thought comes to his mind. apart from this the mind is to be trained to refrain from thinking about the painful stimulus.
Coping Ahead is another technique in DBT that requires the client to sit quietly and think of the feared situation and strategize what he will do.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Androphobia?
Androphobia is a fear of men and is prevalent more in women than in men, but present in both.
- What causes Androphobia?
Androphobia is caused by genetic factors or a trauma that happened, either sexual assault, rape or physical violence. In women mostly it is after the incidence of a trauma and in men it can be due to dis masculinity, a threat to ones masculinity.
- How do I know if I have Androphobia?
If at least 3-4 symptoms of panic exist including anxiousness to see or be near men, anxiety worsening if a man gets near and the thought of going to a place where men will be present, then a person might have Androphobia.
- Can Androphobia be treated?
Yes, Androphobia can be treated if the therapy is followed.
- Is Androphobia common?
Androphobia like other phobias exists in 28% of the population. Then yes, it is quite common.
Titles to Read From
- Abbott, Andrew (1988) The System of Professions: An Essay on the Division of Expert Labor. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Berquist, Jon L. (1992) Reclaiming Her Story: The Witness of Women in the Old Testament. St. Louis: Chalice Press
- Androphobia, Demasculinization, and Professional Conflicts: The Herstories of the Physical Therapy Profession Deconstructed by Anders Ottosson
- The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, Book by Bessel van der Kolk
- It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and …Book by Mark Wolynn