Have you ever heard the word menophobia? It is a type of phobia, in this case, the phobia (intense and irrational fear) of menstruation.
In this article we will see the characteristics of this peculiar phobia, what exactly is feared with it and, finally, what are its symptoms, causes and possible treatments.
Menophobia: what is it?
Menophobia is the phobia of menstruation (period) . This fear can be extrapolated to the fact of bleeding, but also to the associated symptoms of the period (pain, mood swings, hormonal changes…). Thus, it is a type of phobia related to other types of fear, such as fear of pain and/or fear of blood (hemophobia or hematophobia).
Another curious fact about menophobia is that, in the case of men, the fact of suffering from it is related, in some cases, to the fear of women.
Characteristics of menstruation
Also called menorrhea, or period, as most of us will know, it is bleeding that occurs once a month in women (from the time they get their first period, between approximately 8 and 15 years old, until they go through menopause, between 45 and 55 years old).
During this period, which lasts between 2 and 7 days, women bleed from the vagina. The amount of blood varies greatly from one woman to another , and the bleeding is also not the same on the first day as on the second, third, etc. Menstruation occurs because the egg produced by the woman is expelled from the ovary to be fertilized and is not fertilized (that is, pregnancy does not occur).
Thus, in menophobia there is an intense, irrational and disproportionate fear of menstruation; it can occur in both men and women. However, it should be noted that is a rare phobia (it is true that there can be many fears associated with it, especially among women, and that this is quite common, but these are cases that could hardly be classified as phobias).
In other words, cases of menophobia, diagnosable as such (with all the symptoms involved and the fulfilment of diagnostic criteria), are rather few.
Symptoms of phobia of menstruation
What are the main symptoms of menophobia? As a specific phobia, and being an anxiety disorder (according to the DSM-5), there are a series of diagnostic criteria (symptoms) specific to it, and there are mainly four:
- Disproportionate/irrational fear
- Avoidance of phobic stimuli
- Interference in daily life
- At least 6 months duration of symptoms.
Let’s look at them in a little more detail.
1. Disproportionate/irrational fear
In menophobia, excessive fear can appear before different stimuli : the bleeding itself (which is related to the phobia of blood [hemophobia or hematophobia]), the painful symptoms associated with menstruation and/or the hormonal and mood changes that occur as a result of it.
In other words, it is a complex phobia, because one can fear all of these situations, or only one of them.
1.1. Fear of bleeding / blood
The fear of blood, or of bleeding, called hemophobia or hematophobia , can appear in menophobia. This could also be related to a sensitivity to disgust or a fear of staining clothes, for example.
1.2. Fear of pain
Fear of pain is quite common, although it must be stressed that it is not the same to be afraid of something as to have a phobia. Phobias are anxiety disorders that cause real interference with daily functioning, as well as intense discomfort. In other words, they are mental disorders, which incapacitate the person.
Thus, fear of pain is common, not only in menophobia, but in other types of phobias. In these cases, in the end, what the person fears is not so much the stimulus itself (in this case, menstruation), but the consequences (symptoms) of it, which would involve pain.
Since always (also evolutionarily), pain (both physical and mental) has been something quite avoided by human beings, since it is a state that generates different emotions/feelings in us, such as rejection, fear… Thus, it is natural to think that people do not want to suffer, and do not want to feel pain.
1.3. Fear of mood and/or hormonal changes
Another possible fear associated with menophobia is the intense fear of mood changes and/or hormones generated by menstruation itself .
If, as women, we know that before the arrival of menstruation (or during it), our hormonal cycle changes and, as a consequence, our mood and state of mind as well, this can generate certain discomfort and/or anxiety. In extreme cases (when this discomfort really interferes with our lives), menophobia appears.
In menophobia, as in any other phobia, the phobic stimulus/situation is avoided. Although in this case this symptom is particular, since menstruation cannot be avoided (unless artificial methods are used, such as birth control pills without rest).
So the person with menophobia could use one of these methods to avoid the rule.
3. Interference in life
The above symptoms cause interference in the person’s daily life, as well as in their normal functioning . In addition, there is often significant discomfort in the person.
4. Duration of 6 months
Finally, the duration of the symptoms of any specific phobia should be at least 6 months (always according to the DSM-5).
The causes of menophobia can be several: related to another specific phobia, this being commonly hemophobia or hematophobia (blood phobia), related to some traumatic or highly embarrassing event for the person (for example, having stained in public and fearing to live it again, having experienced intense pain, excessively intense mood swings, etc.), etc.
On the other hand, in the case of women, the fact of having had very strong and painful rules, can also end up leading to the appearance of menophobia (because of that intense fear of suffering pain).
As far as psychological therapy for menophobia is concerned, let’s remember that the treatment usually used for specific phobias is of two types: exposure therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy . These two options are highly effective, although exposure therapy is a little more so.
In exposure therapy, the person with menophobia will be exposed to the stimuli they fear. In the case of blood, this may be simple, although in the case of pain and mood swings, the hierarchy of items will be more difficult to realize (because they are more “abstract” or difficult to concretize).
As for cognitive behavioural therapy, it aims to modify erroneous beliefs and dysfunctional/irrational thoughts associated with phobic stimuli, in this case menstruation, the pain it causes, the blood itself, the fact of getting dirty in public or the mood changes it causes. This objective is worked on mainly through cognitive restructuring techniques.
- American Psychiatric Association (APA) (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.
- Belloch, A., Sandín, B. and Ramos, F. (2010). Manual of Psychopathology. Volume I and II. Madrid: McGraw-Hill.
- Horse (2002). Manual for the cognitive-behavioral treatment of psychological disorders. Vol. 1 and 2. Madrid. Siglo XXI (Chapters 1-8, 16-18).