Heterophobia: What is it? Causes, Risk Factors, Complications, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

It is considered a specific phobia and is also known as sexphobia.

Heterophobia is the fear of the opposite sex. The word’s origin is from the Greek Hetero, which means different, and the phobia is Greek, that is, fear.

While men and women are created equal, some people still develop a fear of the opposite sex. This is mainly due to a negative experience from the past.

For example, a woman may fear all men if she has had a troubled childhood, where she had to deal with a rebellious and abusive father or brother. He probably never saw his father lovingly.

Gradually she began to see all men as equals, and her thought process about all men prevented her from approaching those of the opposite sex.

Even men can experience heterophobia after being cheated on by their girlfriends. As a result, a man with a broken heart will have a similar perception of all women.

This could also be due to a mother who abandoned him in childhood, and as a result, he was raised in an orphanage, where he received unfair treatment.


Sexophobia could also be related to the fear of having sex.

Causes of heterophobia

Since heterophobia originates in the brain, it is a psychological problem.

In such individuals, the subconscious mind begins to link the opposite sex to many negative feelings.

As soon as they meet someone of the opposite sex, the subconscious automatically starts sending out fear signals, causing fear in their mind.

There are several different reasons why a person can become heterophobic; some of the leading causes of heterophobia are:

  1. The person has gone through a paralyzing situation that has caused heterophobia or fear in the individual.
  2. Some experience in childhood was related to the phobia where one has been a victim or witness, and that has developed suspicion.

Risk factor’s

The risk of heterophobia can be increased with the few risk factors listed below; these are:

  • A person’s age is a risk factor for heterophobia.
  • The development of the phobia occurs during adolescence.
  • The hereditary factor: heterophobia can develop if a close relative suffers from the same or similar type of phobia.
  • The temperamental factor: fear can grow if you have negative thoughts or are more sensitive than ordinary people.
  • The aspect of an experience in the past: If something terrible has been experienced in the past or childhood, then the fear of that object can grow.

Complications of heterophobia

Fear of specific things may seem stupid or silly to people, but to the patient, it can be devastating.

Some of the complications that develop when you have heterophobia are:

  • The patient isolates himself from the rest of the world: In this way, his academic and professional life is disrupted. If fear is within the child, he will never learn to interact with people, essential for everyday life.
  • Heterophobia can lead the patient to anxiety disorders and later to clinical depression.
  • The patient can choose the method of substance abuse, such as taking drugs to get away from the stress caused by heterophobia.
  • Suicidal tendencies can also develop in the patient.

Signs and symptoms

Fear increases as the patient get closer to what he fears. Every phobia, including heterophobia, works the same way.

It begins when the patient becomes anxious and can reach the level of an intense panic attack.

Some of the common physical and emotional signs and symptoms of heterophobia are:

  • Increased body heat and hot and cold sensations.
  • Increase in the heartbeat frequency, excessive sweating, feeling dizzy, and vomiting.
  • Tremors, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
  • Adopt any way possible to avoid the object of fear.
  • Losing control of yourself and panicking even after knowing that fear is irrational.
  • Feeling of death in extreme cases.
  • Worrying and tense thinking about the object that is feared.

Diagnosis of heterophobia

There is no certain test that can determine whether or not a person has heterophobia.

Specific symptoms are observed and studied, and certain diagnostic methods can determine if the person has developed the phobia.

The criteria are also mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

The diagnostic criteria for specific phobias such as heterophobia are:

  • The feeling of intense anxiety or fear when exposed to the object of fear. The thing here triggers fear in the patient. Sometimes the response is immediate when the source of fear is placed in front of the patient.
  • Fear is irrational, and the level of anxiety is prone to developing a risk for the patient when exposed to the source of worry.
  • The patient tries and avoids all social situations that can be exposed to the object without fear.
  • Avoid social problems with the fear of being exposed to the object of fear that is causing disorders in the patient’s daily life.
  • The fear persists in the patient for more than six months.


There are several treatments used for heterophobia that can be probed.

The standard therapy is known as psychotherapy. There are several types of psychotherapy; some are:

Desensitization or exposure therapy

Desensitization or exposure therapy is the best way to treat heterophobia. This type of therapy uses exposure methods to eliminate heterophobia.

Having the patient attend social gatherings where there are many people can reduce the fear when he notices that the fear is irrational.

The amount of exposure slowly increases over time as the patient continues to deal with the situation.

Talk therapy

Talk therapy can help treat heterophobia.

Here you can talk to the patient or bring other people, such as family and friends, to speak to them and thus slowly lose the fear they feel towards people.

This therapy also helps put in the patient’s mind that the fear is irrational.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy to treat heterophobia focuses on changing negative thoughts to positive ones.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy exposes the patient to the object of fear under controlled conditions. It helps to change their beliefs by making them understand that there is no reason to fear.


Medication can be prescribed to treat phobia, but it should be noted that these medications can have side effects and withdrawal symptoms.

It should be noted that the use of medications is not to cure phobias, and they only act temporarily by suppressing the symptoms.

The other therapies that the patient can adopt are hypnotherapy and Neuro-Linguistics programs.

Heterophobia can not only be life-altering; it can also alter those around you.

This condition is not only extreme fear but is also often accompanied by irrational hatred.

While there are some rare cases, this phobia is seen more predominantly in LGBT communities.

Making an effort for change will make a big difference in the patient’s personal life, usually resulting in a calmer composure in the face of previously perceived stressful situations.

If the patient is ready to make this positive change, personally and socially, he should do preliminary research to find the best locally available treatment options.

Patients need to look forward as a society and change their behavior. Even small positive changes in the patient’s personal life will help him recover faster.

Prevention of heterophobia

The traumatic events of childhood and genetics always play a role in developing heterophobia, but we must consider if the patient explicitly notices symptoms.

Treating the patient in the early stage will not only help you but could also prevent heterophobia or fear from being passed on to your children.