Coithophobia is an irrational fear of sexual relations, which is part of the wide variety of sexual phobias or erotophobias. Individuals with this disorder may initiate romantic relationships, kissing others or hugging them, but they have a great fear of sexual intercourse and penetration.

Having sex, especially with the person we love, is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and it is essential for a healthy life, both individually and as a couple. But when fear takes hold of a person, the consequences on a psychological and social level can be very serious.

In this article we will talk about coithophobia (also known as genophobia) and we will go deeper into the causes, symptoms and consequences of this irrational fear.

What sex phobias are there

Sexual phobias or erotophobias are a variety of disorders related to sex . Some people are phobic of penetration (as in the case of coithophobia), others are afraid of penises and others of intimacy.

Phobias, in general, are irrational fears that generate great anxiety, discomfort and stress peaks and cause the phobic person to avoid the stimulus or situation feared. There are different types of sex phobias in addition to coithophobia, as follows:

1. Nudophobia

This phobia is also known as gymnophobia, and it is the fear of nudity. Therefore, these people are afraid of being naked or of others seeing them like that.

Fear of intimacy

Ndophobia can be confused with fear of intimacy, but they are not the same thing. Fear of intimacy refers not so much to being naked, but to feeling close to the other person both physically and emotionally.

3. Hephatophobia

And irrational fear of intimacy is not the same as fear of physical contact, known as happhobia. This fear is characterized by the individual’s fear of being touched for different reasons (e.g., fear of disease).

Although happhobia is not only related to sex, the disorder also affects sexual relationships.

4. Phallophobia

It is the irrational fear of both flaccid and erect penises (medortophobia), which makes it seriously difficult to have sex.

5. Paraphobia

It is a phobic disorder characterized by a fear of sexual perversion. It is a complex phobia in which some people are afraid of perverting themselves, while others fear the perversions of others.

6. Vulnerability phobia

Vulnerability phobia is the fear of abandonment, of being left alone if someone rejects them. It also affects intimacy, since some individuals do not believe that others will like them.

This phobia has negative consequences on different types of interpersonal relationships including those between partners, and therefore sex with the partner is affected.

7. Phylemaphobia

Also known as phylmathophobia, it is the phobia of kissing, that is, the irrational fear of these acts of love. It is usually associated with different causes, such as worries about bad breath or fear of catching diseases.

Causes (and classic conditioning)

Coithophobia, like any phobia, often develops as a result of a traumatic experience. This occurs through a type of associative learning called classical conditioning, in which the person suffers a traumatic experience from the past that causes a strong emotional reaction.

John B. Watson was the first scientist to experiment with this type of learning with humans, and he succeeded in making a little boy named Albert learn an irrational fear, that is, a phobia. This controversial experiment could not be carried out today because it is considered unethical. You can learn more about the experiment with little Albert in the following video:

Other causes of this phobia

The bad experiences that can cause this phobia can be different from one person to another: sexual abuse, manipulative sexual behavior, or pain during penetration. Phobias can have their origin in childhood, although in this case it is very normal that it starts in adulthood , when sexual behaviour is more pronounced.

Many times they can develop as a result of other problems of a sexual nature, such as erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation or dyspareunia, a medical condition that makes sex painful for some women.

Religious beliefs or irrational beliefs about sex (often the result of misinformation or television) can lead a person to suffer from this phobia.

Symptoms of genophobia

Coithophobia presents the same symptoms as other phobias, whether specific (as in the case of this phobia) or complex (as in the case of social phobia or agoraphobia). Anxiety and discomfort are the characteristic symptoms, and the person usually avoids any situation related to having sex with another person.

The symptoms of coithophobia can be classified into three groups:

  • Cognitive symptoms : irrational thoughts, anguish, fear…
  • Behavioural symptoms : avoidance of the situation or feared stimulus, i.e. sexual relations.
  • Physical symptoms : tightness in the chest, dry mouth, nausea, dizziness, headaches, hyperventilation and shortness of breath, accelerated heartbeat, tremors, chills

Treatment for this phobia

According to research, phobias can be overcome through psychotherapy . And the data from these studies show that cognitive behavioral therapy is really effective. Some of the techniques most commonly used in this type of therapy to overcome phobias are relaxation techniques or exposure techniques.

With regard to the latter, automatic desensitization is usually used, which consists of exposing the patient gradually to the phobic stimulus while learning more adaptive tools to cope with the situation. Logically, it is not possible for the patient to have sex in the consultation room, but other strategies can be used to help expose the patient to this type of situation and to check that his hypotheses are wrong. Some cognitive techniques can also be used to modify some irrational beliefs.

Acceptance is also often key to reducing anxiety, so new forms of therapy such as Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy have been used recently.

In extreme cases, pharmacological treatment has proved useful, but always in combination with psychological therapy.