A phobia is an excessive fear of something that actually presents little danger, but nonetheless makes you anxious. In the case of gamophobia, it’s a fear of commitment or marriage.
We’re not talking about passing nervousness that could happen to anyone considering a long-term commitment. We’re talking about the kind of fear that alters your life or leads to anxiety or panic attacks.
If just thinking about commitment or marriage gives you the flop sweats, makes your heart pound, or leaves you lightheaded, you might have gamophobia. And it can rob you of otherwise fulfilling relationships.
Unlike many researched phobias, gamophobia is an extremely under-researched area. Let’s take a closer look at gamophobia and how you can overcome it.
How common is a fear of commitment?
Statistics on individual phobias are hard to come by. It’s estimated that 12.5 percent of adults in the United States experience a specific phobia at some point. Some of the more common ones include the fear of flying, fear of spiders, and fear of needles.
How many people have fear of commitment is difficult to say. Not everyone seeks help or gets a diagnosis. Without professional counseling, it’s not easy to figure out if you’re dealing with gamophobia or something else, such as:
Even though statistics are lacking, it’s safe to say that you’re not alone.
Specific phobias like gamophobia can develop early in life. It may be due to a mixture of things rather than a single cause.
It could be a learned response from observing parents or other close relatives.
Fear of commitment can arise out of a particular trauma, such as witnessing your parents’ difficult relationship or divorce. You may have grown up with the impression that relationship or marital conflicts can’t be worked out and you don’t want to walk in your parents’ footsteps.
Gamophobia could arise from the ashes of a previous relationship that didn’t work out or fear of “missing out” should you commit to one person.
You could even have a genetic predisposition to anxiety.
Being a little cautious before committing is a good thing and not indicative of a phobia. A true phobia shows itself in bigger ways, such as:
- The thought of commitment fills you with dread.
- You’ve organized your life around this fear.
- You’ve backtracked on good relationships out of a need to “escape.”
- You feel anxious or depressed about relationships.
Just thinking about commitment can lead to physical symptoms such as:
- rapid heartbeat, heart palpitations
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
You probably realize that your fear is excessive and can stop you from getting what you want. A true phobia significantly impacts your school, work, or personal life for 6 months or more.
Once you acknowledge the fear and realize that it’s within your power to change, you’ve taken the first step.
If you’re in a relationship, be totally honest with that person to avoid leading them on. Let them know that this is about you and your history, and you’re learning how to deal with it.
Explore the reasons behind your fear. Are past events sabotaging your present happiness?
Think about what you want and need in a relationship. You might come to realize that long-term commitment isn’t your cup of tea after all. Or you might discover that despite the fear, that’s exactly what you want.
That realization may be all you need to start overcoming your fear.
You don’t have to get married or have a committed relationship. You may have perfectly valid reasons for not committing. That’s a personal choice and you get to make it. You can be happy on your own and you can still have meaningful relationships.
On the other hand, any unreasonable fear can change the course of your life. When fear of commitment rules, freedom of choice is lost, and that can hold you back in a major way.
It may also impact your health. Research from 2016 shows that having a phobia is associated with higher probability of physical diseases.
If you aren’t able to work through it on your own, you may benefit from seeing a mental health professional. It’s especially important to seek medical help if you also have panic attacks, anxiety, or depression.
Once you recognize your phobia, you can start to address it. It’s possible that through deep introspection and a willingness to change, you can overcome it on your own.
But getting over a phobia can be difficult. If you’re struggling, there are several forms of therapy that may help you along.
In behavioral therapy, the theory is that behaviors are learned and therefore can be changed. You’ll identify specific self-destructive behaviors and practice strategies to change them.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you see how thoughts affect behaviors. Your therapist will most likely present a structured plan with a set number of sessions at the outset. As you progress, you’ll learn how to change your thinking and behavior patterns.
In talk therapy and other psychodynamic therapies, also known as psychotherapy, you’re free to express your innermost feelings without being judged. This can help you come to terms with your phobia and how it came to be. Talk therapy can include individual, couples, or group sessions.
While CBT and behavioral therapies are gold standards for most phobias, gamophobia may be a response to challenges in our personal relationships or the relationships around us. Psychodynamic therapies are found to be particularly helpful for this.
Medication isn’t usually necessary in the treatment of phobias. If you’re dealing with a co-existing condition, a doctor may consider prescribing:
If your partner has gamophobia, it doesn’t mean their feelings for you aren’t genuine. It’s a phobia, so it says nothing about you. That’s not to say that your feelings don’t matter, because they do.
Does your partner have no intention of changing? Consider what you can live with. If you simply must have that commitment, you have a decision to make. If you don’t feel the need to lock in a relationship, then it’s all good.
Does your partner want to change? You can help. Let them talk about their feelings without fear of judgement. Allow them time and space to take small steps. Support them in seeking therapy and offer to go with them if they want you to.
Open communication is the only way to proceed in the best interest of both parties.
Gamophobia is a fear of commitment or marriage. Well beyond pre-wedding jitters, it’s an intense fear that can cause you to lose valuable relationships.
Psychotherapy, particularly CBT, is