Androphobia is defined as a fear of men. The term originated inside feminist and lesbian-feminist movements to balance the opposite term “gynophobia,” which means a fear of women.
Misandry, another term that arose from the feminist and lesbian-feminist movements, is defined as a hatred of men. The opposite of misandry is misogyny, which means a hatred of women. Both men and women can be affected by androphobia.
The symptoms of androphobia may include:
- an instant, intense fear, anxiousness or panic when you see or think about men
- an awareness that your fear of men is irrational or inflated but you feel like you cannot control it
- anxiety that worsens as a man gets physically closer to you
- active avoidance of men or situations where you might encounter men; or feeling intense worry or fear in situations where you encounter men
- trouble carrying out your daily activities because you are afraid of men
- reactions to your fears that manifest physically, such as sweating, a rapid heartbeat, chest tightness, or trouble breathing
- nausea, dizziness, or fainting when in close proximity to men or thinking about men
In children, androphobia may manifest as tantrums with clinging, crying, or a refusal to leave a female parent’s side or approach a man.
Androphobia is considered a specific phobia because it is an overpowering and irrational fear of something — in this case, men — who don’t typically pose real danger but still manage to cause anxiety and avoidance behaviors. Androphobia, like other specific phobias, is long lasting and can negatively affect your ability to carry out everyday activities, like work, education, and social relationships.
The exact cause of androphobia is not well understood. But experts say that some possibilities include:
- past negative experiences with men, such as rape, physical assault, mental or physical abuse, neglect, or sexual harassment
- genetics and your environment, which can include learned behavior
- changes in your brain functioning
Some people are more at risk of androphobia than others. Those most at risk include:
- children (most phobias — including androphobia — occur in early childhood, usually by age 10)
- relatives who have had phobias or anxiety (this may be the result of inherited or learned behavior)
- a sensitive, inhibited, or negative temperament or personality
- a past negative experience with men
- hearing secondhand about a negative experience with men from a friend, family member, or even a stranger
Androphobia may start out as a small annoyance, but it can grow into a major obstacle in your everyday life. You should see your doctor if the anxiety caused by your androphobia is:
- negatively affecting your work or school performance
- harming your social relationships or ability to be social
- interfering with your everyday activities
Your doctor can refer you to a mental healthcare provider.
It’s especially important to address any suspected cases of androphobia in children. Sometimes children outgrow their fears. But androphobia can greatly affect a child’s ability to function in society. Their fears should be addressed with professional medical help.
If you ask your doctor to be screened for androphobia, they will discuss your symptoms and medical, psychiatric, and social history with you. Your doctor will also perform a physical examination to rule out physical problems that might be triggering your anxiety. If your doctor suspects that you have androphobia or other anxiety disorders, they will recommend you to a mental healthcare expert to provide you with more specialized treatment.
Most people with androphobia can recover through therapy sessions. The primary treatment of androphobia is psychotherapy, also called talk therapy. The two most common forms of psychotherapy used to treat androphobia are exposure therapy and behavioral therapy. In some cases, medication is also used as a part of the treatment plan.
Exposure therapy is designed to change the way you respond to men. You will be gradually and repeatedly exposed to things that you associate with men. And ultimately, you will be exposed to a real-life man or men. Over time, these gradual exposures should help you manage the thoughts, feelings, and sensations associated with your fear of men. For example, your therapist might first show you photos of men, and then make you listen to voice recordings of men. After that, your therapist will have you watch videos of men, and then have you slowly approach a real-life man.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy uses exposure combined with other therapeutic techniques to teach you different ways to view and deal with your fear of men. Your therapist will teach you how to:
- view your fear in a different way
- cope with the bodily sensations associated with your fear
- emotionally deal with the impact your fear has had on your life
CBT sessions will help you gain a sense of confidence or mastery of your thoughts and feelings instead of feeling overpowered by them.
Psychotherapy is usually very successful at treating androphobia. But sometimes it’s helpful to use medications that can reduce feelings of anxiety or panic attacks associated with androphobia. These medications should be used at the beginning of treatment to help facilitate your recovery.
Another appropriate use is for infrequent, short-term situations where your anxiety prevents you from doing something necessary, such as seeking medical treatment from a man or going to the emergency room.
Medications commonly used for treating androphobia include:
- Beta blockers: Beta blockers control the effects of anxiety-induced adrenaline in the body. Adrenaline can cause uncomfortable, sometimes dangerous, physical symptoms including increased heart rate and blood pressure, a pounding heart, as well as trembling voice and limbs
- Sedatives: Benzodiazepines help you feel calmer by reducing your anxiety. These drugs should be used with caution because they can be addictive. If you have a past history of alcohol or drug abuse, avoid taking benzodiazepines.
Androphobia can negatively affect your quality of life. Possible complications include social isolation, mood disorders, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts or attempts.
It’s important for you to seek help if you need it, especially if you have children who are, or could be affected by, your phobia. With treatment, you can reduce your anxiety and live your life to the fullest.