What is Pistanthrophobia?
Pisanthrophobia is a rare term, used to describe the fear of emotional intimacy and building new bonds with others. More often than not, it develops when one has been hurt over the course of a relationship. Naturally, those who have been in abusive or toxic relationships may be at risk of becoming afflicted with this phobia. Pistanthrophobia rhymes with “distance” and “distant”, but that is just my conjecture about how the word is coined.
Is Pistanthrophobia a real phobia?
Web.MD and The Mayo Clinic do not have official definitions of this disorder. However, Thought Catalog claims that it is a real disorder. It feels questionable whether this is a term coined by pop culture or it is a medical term, as my attempts to search for the root word have proved futile.
It is probably one of the many phobias which exist, like trypophobia, for example. It is less well known than other phobias and psychiatric disorders out there, but definitely shares a lot of similarities with BPD(Borderline Personality Disorder). Fear of abandonment, mistrust, and intense anxiety are some common traits.
A similar disorder, Philophobia, is described as the fear of falling in love, so perhaps, the two disorders could be related. The blanket symptoms are about the same.
How to know if you have Pistanthrophobia
If you are single, you may avoid getting into a new relationship for fear of getting hurt again. You may avoid dating apps like the plague even though you crave intimacy. Even if you do end up going on dates, you might hesitate to start a formal relationship with the other party.
If you are in a relationship, you may become very clingy and needy and develop separation anxiety when it comes to your partner. For example, if he/she ignores your text messages, you end up thinking he/she is abandoning you. You may scrutinize your partner’s body language, facial expression for cues that he hates/is starting to reject you. When your partner seems deceptively nice, you may second guess his intentions. In the long run, this will put a strain on your relationship with him.
On the other hand, you may become very distant and isolated from your partner. You may reject all forms of intimacy, using excuses as a crutch not to engage in sexual relations, for example.
What to do to remove the phobia
If pistanthrophobia is ruining your life, you may want to seek professional help from a therapist. According to Sarah Mhyre, the treatment of choice for phobias is usually exposure response therapy.
Gradual exposure to your fear, through guided visualization and imagery about being in a relationship, then downloading a dating app, and then going on a couple of dates, is on par for the course. The complexity of the disorder will affect the number of sessions needed to overcome your disorder.
Cognitive Behavioral therapy could be helpful to address the key thoughts underpinning this disorder. Faulty beliefs and cognitive distortions such as “black and white thinking”,” catastrophizing” and “magnification” will be actively challenged during therapy sessions.
Medication can be prescribed by a psychiatrist to reduce the intensity of depressive and anxious symptoms.
Thinking positive is easier said than done, but what are the worst-case scenarios which could happen in a relationship? You are mentally stronger than you think and the brain is very powerful in shaping your perceptions about the people around you.
It takes time to rewire your thinking and heal from emotional scars. As the proverb goes:” Time is the healer of all wounds.”
These days, people tend to label and “self-diagnose” themselves, so perhaps, Pistanthrophobia is another term stemming from it. Thus, it may not be an actual disorder. Nevertheless, it is possible to seek professional help if you experience significant symptoms that interfere with your daily life, or makes you feel very distressed. Be kind to yourself. Recovery is a journey, and it is never linear.