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What is Gamophobia?
Gamophobia (pronounced [gam-oh-fo-bee-ah]) is the irrational fear of marriage (or commitment). It must be an unreasonable fear that is persistent and negatively impacts your personal life.
Do you avoid commitment? If you struggle with intense fear at the thought of being in a committed relationship, you might be struggling with gamophobia.
But does your fear of commitment extend beyond the norm? Read on to find out how to recognize gamophobia, what might cause this persistent fear, and what to do about it. Because we all deserve to ditch our commitment woes and live happily-ever-after, right?
The Physical Symptoms of Gamophobia
What are the physical symptoms of gamophobia?
Recognizing Gamophobia in Others
How do you recognize gamophobia in a loved one?
If any of these statements/questions ring true for you, it’s time to confront your fear of commitment. Read on for some ideas, for yourself and the one you love.
How is Gamophobia Diagnosed?
Mental health conditions can only be diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional. If you suspect that you're struggling with a commitment phobia, you'll need to be seen for an evaluation and meet very specific criteria to be diagnosed with gamophobia. If you'd like a diagnosis or treatment, refer to our resources below.
What Might Cause Gamophobia?
Most phobias have an underlying cause. In this section, we will explore some possible underlying causes and risk factors that might dispose you to a fear of commitment.
Diagnosed Mental Health Conditions
According to the Cleveland Clinic, someone who has been diagnosed with a mental health disorder such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) or an anxiety disorder may be at an increased risk of struggling with a fear of commitment.
Likewise, if you have a family member or loved one diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, it might negatively affect you and your ability to form long-term relationships.
Parental Divorce and Other Negative Experiences with Meaningful Relationships
I think we’ve all known someone with divorced parents, or who’ve been divorced themselves. Some of us have watched what seemed like the strongest marriages crumble. Others have been part of that experience firsthand.
If you’ve experienced divorce, it’s hard to fathom why you’d bother getting married, right? If it’s going to be years of hard work it’s easy to adopt feelings of impending doom. But you cannot look at someone else’s failed relationship and believe that it’s going to be you.
However, there are a lot of factors that come into play for couples who’ve divorced. Some had an unresolved mental health condition that ate away at their relationship. Others didn't have the same goals and desires for their future.
Others suffered loss or tragedy that tore them apart. Many men and women have divorced due to domestic violence. Obviously, there is a myriad of reasons relationships fail. Even if you yourself have been divorced, that doesn’t mean your future should be devoid of personal relationships.
Insecure Attachment in Early Childhood
According to Karyn Ellis, M.A., L.M.H.C., your attachment style can negatively impact your ability to form relationships. Children who were unable to develop a secure attachment to their primary caregiver struggle to properly attach to a partner. They fear being abandoned and often find themselves unhappy in committed relationships.
If you experienced neglect or abuse at the hand of a loved one or caregiver, this might also predispose you to gamophobia and other phobias.
Fear of Missing Out
Coined ‘FOMO’ among Millennials, the “fear of missing out” is something we’ve all felt but rarely admitted. If I choose to marry this person, am I giving up the possibility of someone who is better for me in the future?
If I choose to get married, will it hinder my ability to travel? Or to focus on my work and move up the proverbial ladder? Settling down with one person when you have a whole smorgasbord of men/women to choose from can be frightening.
So many of us are so uncertain of the future and what it holds that we are afraid to commit in the present. If there is something bigger, better, and grander in my future, why not wait? I think if we are being totally honest with ourselves, this fear comes into play in every part of our lives, not just relationships.
Playing off of a fear of missing out, you may look at the idea of marriage with disdain because it sentences you to a lifetime of feeling trapped. We’ve all heard the negative phrase associated with a spouse, i.e. "The old ball-and-chain.”
Or you focus on the odds of the marriage failing and the cost associated with alimony or child support. Or you simply cannot imagine a life without the freedom to do as you choose.
Look, I’m not saying that everyone has to get married. If you fall into the category of simply never being interested in the notion of marriage, be honest with your significant other up-front. Open communication is key.
For some, your lack of ability to commit to someone can be related to something deeply personal. Many women struggle with infertility—10% of women in the United States to be exact.
Perhaps you’ve been in a previous relationship only to find out your significant other has had a life-long desire to be a parent. Or you struggled to conceive and a relationship fell apart because of it. I just have to say this now: Your self-worth is not measured by your ability to have a child.
This doesn’t just apply to women. Men deal with infertility issues as well and it can be a difficult subject to broach. If you’re afraid to talk to your boyfriend/girlfriend about these issues, it can be relationship-ending.
How To Overcome Your Fear of Commitment
If your intense fear is negatively impacting your life and ability to form meaningful relationships, it's important to seek help from a mental health professional. Gamophobia is treatable.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Also referred to as "talk therapy," cognitive behavioral therapy for treating specific phobias is a common option. Talk therapy is geared toward helping you replace negative thoughts with positive ones and introduces other helpful coping skills. It's one of the most common treatments for anxiety disorders.
Exposure therapy is exactly as it sounds—gradual exposure to your specific phobia can help you become more familiar with it and lessen your anxiety. Exposure therapy is a highly effective treatment option.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) "Is a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories." During EMDR, you are exposed to your fear in brief doses while simultaneously focusing on an external stimulus, such as a therapist directing you to move your eyes. It has been found to be effective in some cases.
Your healthcare provider may recommend combining medication with a more traditional treatment route to help improve symptoms of gamophobia immediately. They can be useful to to treat the anxiety that often accompanies a specific phobia.
How to Cope with a Commitment Phobia
For most people that fear commitment, it's a struggle with deep roots and no quick fix. But if you aren't ready to seek out professional treatment for your fear of commitment, there are things you can do to address your fear.
Be Honest with Yourself and Your Partner
Admit that you struggle with a fear of commitment. If you aren’t ready to open up to people close to you about the reasons, talk to a therapist. They are impartial and can help you navigate what you’re feeling and how to convey it to loved ones.
Take a Deep Look
Take an honest look at your relationship. Sometimes, your fear of commitment can be related to the person you’re with. Are you with the wrong person? If you sit down and truly think about your future and don’t see them in it, do not string them along. You may feel sick to your stomach about the relationship for a reason—in that case, it’s time to move on. Self-care is important too.
Embrace Relaxation Techniques
To help combat negative thoughts, consider implementing yoga, mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, and other relaxation techniques into your daily life. If you begin to experience feelings of panic or anxiety, use these techniques to help yourself relax.
What do You do if Your Partner has Gamophobia?
If you’re in a relationship and you recognize the signs of gamophobia in your loved one—don’t panic. Do not confront them. Instead, find a way to start a conversation with them in a gentle and non-threatening way:
“I sense that you tense up when I talk about the future, is there a reason why?”
“I know the idea of commitment makes you uncomfortable, would you like to talk about it?”
If your partner isn’t comfortable with opening up to you, ask if they’d be able to speak to someone else about it. Remind them you care for them and want the best for them. Let them know you desire to understand and want to be able to move forward in the relationship.
You also need to prepare yourself and know that not everyone is ready for a relationship or marriage. If the person you’re dating is open about that, accept it and know you may not be with them long-term. If that isn’t for you, it’s better to move on earlier in a relationship versus years down the road.
If past traumatic experiences are holding you back from a long-term commitment, schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider to determine the best next steps for you. There are trained therapists who can help. Don't enter a relationship if you aren’t ready—seek help first.
Look in your area for a therapist who is experienced in this specific phobia. If your options are slim or you are more comfortable participating in therapy from your home, we recommend BetterHelp as an online and mobile resource. Don't let your fear rule your life, seek the help you deserve now.