Phobias are one of the most frequent reasons why patients visit the psychologist.
There are different types of phobias, and within the specific phobic disorders we can find hydrophobia (fear of water), aerophobia (fear of flying) or arachnophobia (fear of spiders), among others. One of the specific phobias that is not so common but that is very curious is phalophobia , the irrational fear of penises.
In this article we will talk about this phobia and go into detail about its symptoms, causes and treatment.
What is phalophobia
Phaeophobia is usually included within the different sexual phobias or erotophobias, among which we can also highlight coithophobia (fear of sexual relations), gymnophobia (fear of nudity) or haphaephobia (fear of contact or being touched), among others. It is usually considered a sexual phobia because many people who suffer from it, especially women, avoid sexual contact so as not to have to deal with the phobic stimulus. However, both men and women can suffer from this type of phobia.
The irrational fear is of both flaccid and erect penises (medortophobia). The penis, whether erect or not, is a natural thing and most people understand this. However, there are men and women who are afraid of seeing, thinking, or having an erect penis. For many phobic personalities, this can cause a lot of anxiety and discomfort, causing them to avoid these uncomfortable situations .
Causes: traumatic situations
It is generally accepted that phobias arise from a combination of external events (i.e., traumatic events) and internal predispositions (i.e., heredity or genetics), although the former carries much more weight. That is, many phobias have their origin in a triggering event from the past, usually a traumatic experience that occurs at an early age. For example, photophobia can be caused by a bad sexual relationship in the past, which has caused great pain to the person suffering from it.
Learning phobias occurs through classical conditioning, a type of associative learning.
- If you want to know more about classical conditioning, you can read our article: “Classical conditioning and its most important experiments”
The biological origin of phobias
While this is true in almost all cases of specific phobia, social phobias and agoraphobia can have more complex causes.
As for the biological causes, it seems that the body is designed to fear certain stimuli as a way of survival . Something that may have been very useful in the past, but not so much in our days. Therefore, phobias would occur by primitive and non-cognitive associations, and logical arguments would be ineffective in modifying these associations.
The symptoms of phobias are common to all types of phobias, since these pathologies belong to the group of anxiety disorders. That is why the main symptom is anxiety and discomfort, and the main characteristic that phobic patients present is the avoidance of the feared stimulus.
Phobic stimulation produces great fear and anxiety, and so the person tries to stay away from any situation where he or she might feel this way. If sexual relations include the possibility of seeing the phobic stimulus, patients with phalophobia avoid having sexual relations and therefore present serious difficulties in their love lives.
In summary, phallophobia has the following symptoms:
- Physical symptoms : hyperventilation and shortness of breath, hyper-sweating, tachycardia, tremors, chills, tightness in the chest, dry mouth, stomach pain, dizziness, headaches…
- Psychological symptoms : distorted and catastrophic thoughts and a great anxiety, discomfort and fear.
- Behavioral symptoms : avoidance behaviors in the presence of the phobic stimulus: the penises.
Like any phobia, psychological treatment can be very effective . Psychotherapy, therefore, is the best option, although in extreme cases drugs can also be applied.
Psychologists often use different techniques for the treatment of this disorder, and cognitive behavioral therapy, which aims to correct those beliefs or behaviors that interfere with the patient’s well-being, often works very well. The most commonly used techniques are relaxation and exposure techniques. As regards the latter, systematic desensitization stands out, which consists of gradually exposing the patient to the feared situations while learning adaptive tools . In addition, the therapist can help the patient to understand the natural function of the human body and why erections take place, what they mean and what they do not mean.
In recent times, contextual therapies such as Mindfulness or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy are proving to be very effective in the treatment of any type of anxiety disorder, as they help the patient to accept the anxious experience and thus decrease the intensity of the symptoms. Hypnotherapy can also work very well for some patients.
In serious cases, drugs prescribed by a psychiatrist can also be administered, but this therapeutic option should always be accompanied by psychotherapy, as studies show that it is not effective in the long term if it is carried out as the only form of treatment.
New technologies and the treatment of phobias
In recent decades, new technologies have burst into our lives in different ways. It is now possible to buy furniture online, read the daily newspaper from the computer, study a master’s degree without the need to go to university or undergo psychological therapy online.
In addition, it is possible to treat phobias from the mobile phone itself , since in recent years applications have appeared that use virtual reality and augmented reality to expose the patient to phobic stimuli.
- You can learn about the best applications on the market in our article: “8 apps to treat phobias and fears from your smartphone”