Although it doesn’t happen to everyone, it is not uncommon for things to happen when we are strongly attracted to someone, such as our hands getting sweaty, turning red if they look at us, or not knowing what to say or what to talk about at a particular time. This is a certain shyness in front of a person that attracts us, but that does not generate any major impediment.

Now, let’s imagine that this happens to all the people we find very attractive. And now let’s imagine that we are not only talking about discomfort, but about an intense panic that leads us to an anxiety crisis and that causes us to run away from the situations in which this type of person may be. We are talking about a phobia, which in the case of referring to women who are considered attractive or beautiful is called venustraphobia .

What is venustraphobia?

We call venustraphobia or caliginephobia the phobia of women considered very attractive by the person who suffers it .

Thus, the stimulus or phobic situation is the presence of women who are physically very attractive or considered as such by the person suffering from the phobia. It is not necessary for there to be an interaction , but the simple presence of the stimulus could be enough to awaken great anxiety. But they will also generate some anxiety and situations and places where they may appear will be avoided.

It is important to keep in mind that we are facing a phobia and not a simple fear or shyness, which is to some extent logical when facing situations where we are exposed to someone we are attracted to. This is a very rare phobia but there are several cases.


Venustraphobia implies the presence of a panic and extreme and irrational levels of anxiety towards a stimulus or situation, a fear that usually generates physiological symptoms such as hyperventilation, tachycardia, cold sweats, tremors and that can even generate anxiety crises.

Likewise, the person feels so much anxiety that, in view of the fear of feeling it again, he or she will tend to avoid as much as possible being exposed to situations where he or she has to face the feared stimulus or believes that he or she may encounter it, or if necessary, he or she may face the situation but at the cost of suffering great anxiety.

It is necessary to value that what generates anxiety is a subjective element: not all of us consider attractiveness in the same way. In general , anxiety is usually generated by those people who conform to current beauty standards , although depending on each person, the characteristics that cause anxiety will vary.

Likewise, it is not essential that there be an affective-sexual interest in the person in question, but simply that she be considered as highly attractive.

Although is more frequent in heterosexual men , venustraphobia can be suffered by both men and women regardless of their sexual orientation.

Effects on daily life

Venustraphobia can have a significant impact on a person. The anxiety felt usually generates a high level of suffering and alters the normal functioning.

In this sense, it can affect various levels. At a work level it can generate complications at the level of making teamwork difficult and reducing the productivity and capacity of the affected person, while at a social level it can restrict social relations (it becomes difficult to establish or maintain relationships, women who are very attractive or the groups in which they are included are directly avoided…) and cause situations, places or areas to be avoided where women are considered attractive to appear: sport, cinema, fashion…

In extreme cases it would be possible to reach isolation and confinement in the home , although this is infrequent.

Possible causes

Although the exact causes of venustraphobia are not known, it is considered that like the rest of them venustraphobia may have a multifactorial etiology or origin .

While there may be an evolutionary explanation (there may be pressure and anxiety for heterosexual men and homosexual women to court a partner who is considered attractive, while for heterosexual women it may be anxiety related to competition), this phobia is generally considered to be more cognitive, psychological and learning related.

One of the factors that seems to be most common is the existence of some traumatic event or aversive experience in the past in which either an attractive woman was involved or the discomfort was associated with that person. This can be a love failure, a divorce, mockery and humiliation with respect to one’s own physique in comparison with other people (for example in the case of bullying).

This would be a form of conditioning, in which one would have learned to associate the females considered beautiful with pain, anxiety or suffering.

There are also frequent cognitive distortions linked to the anticipation that the woman will criticize or find him/her ridiculous, often also magnifying the attractiveness of that person and underestimating one’s own qualities.

It is not uncommon for those suffering from this phobia to feel great insecurity , which can make it difficult for them to face the idea of interacting with someone they consider more attractive than themselves, often with a possible feeling of inferiority. They may consider that person or the qualities they represent for the subject as unattainable. There may also be a comorbid social skills deficit, although this does not always occur.

Treatment for this phobia

As with other phobias, venustraphobia can be treated by various psychological techniques, the most common and effective of which is live exposure .

The exposure technique is based on making the subject face the feared situation in order to achieve not to eliminate but to effectively manage the anxiety he feels and without the need to avoid it. To do this, a hierarchy of exposure will first be created between the professional and the patient, a list of anxiety generating situations that will be ordered from lowest to highest according to the level of anxiety they cause.

The subject will gradually face (generally starting with those that generate a medium anxiety) each of them, in such a way that in the presence of the significant stimulus an anxiety will appear that with time will diminish by itself. When two exposures are carried out without the appearance of anxiety or when anxiety has been greatly reduced, it is possible to move on to the next item.

Also it will be necessary to work at a cognitive level , analysing firstly what generates anxiety in the patient (knowing the specific elements and others that can influence are necessary to correctly elaborate the hierarchy, as well as having other possible applications), what does this anxiety mean for him or her, what does he or she attribute it to and how does it affect him or her. Likewise, it will be discussed what the beauty and the beliefs that the subject has regarding this or its importance imply for the subject.

Last but not least it is relevant to discuss the patient’s self-esteem and beliefs about himself, about how he is and his capabilities, and about how he sees the world (and how he sees it). Cognitive restructuring can then be carried out to modify possible biases and dysfunctional beliefs.

The use of relaxation techniques , such as diaphragmatic breathing or Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation therapy, can also be helpful in helping to control and lower anxiety levels. They can also be used in the form of systematic desensitization, as an incompatible response to anxiety during exposure.

Bibliographic references:

  • Cavallo, V. (1998). International Handbook of Cognitive and Behavioural Treatments for Psychological Disorders. Pergamon. pp. 5 – 6.

  • Wolpe, J. (1958). Psychotherapy by reciprocal inhibition. Conditional Reflex : A Pavlovian Journal of Research & Therapy. 3 (4): 234 – 240.