Fear of men is an extreme, persistent fear of men. The presence or image of a male can stimulate this prolonged emotional response in some individuals. While fear of men is not a standalone phobia mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed. (DSM-5), it is a type of specific phobia that can affect people of every gender. Specific phobias have their own DSM-5 categorization.
Androphobia is the scientific name for fear of men. It comes from “andros,” the Greek word for man, and “phobia,” which means fear or dread.
Fear of men is a type of anxiety disorder. Unchecked, it can provoke abnormal behaviors and physical reactions. Professional intervention can help alleviate these symptoms.
What Is the Fear of Men?
Fear is a natural response when we perceive a risk to our safety. However, fear of men typically outweighs any threat or possibility of harm. Androphobia results from the brain’s inability to process fear properly.
If you struggle with fear of men, you may find yourself constantly avoiding being around males. You realize that your fear is unfounded, but you can’t shake it. Androphobia can diminish your ability to function in family, work, or social settings.
Fear of Men vs. Hatred of Men
Being afraid of men is not the same as hating men. Prejudice against or deep contempt for men is called misandry. Its counterpart is misogyny, the hatred of women.
People with androphobia do not hate men, but they experience severe anxiety and worry when thinking about or seeing males.
Fear of men can cause a person to feel excessively anxious around males, even when the males present no threat to safety. Intense reactions could include:
- Panic attacks
- Heart palpitations or elevated heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Strong urge to get away
- Difficulty focusing
- Muscle tension
- Sleep problems
Specific phobias such as fear of men linger due to a dysfunction in the brain’s neural pathways responsible for defensive behaviors. The part of the brain called the amygdala becomes over-stimulated and fails to reduce emotional responses to certain triggers.
The over-stimulation comes from unexpected, harmful circumstances or learned behaviors.
Androphobia may stem from a variety of traumatic events at any stage of life. Such unfortunate circumstances cause the brain to overreact repeatedly to things that remind a person of the event.
Examples of fear-inducing occurrences include:
- Child abuse
- Acts of violence such as robbery
- Sexual trauma such as sexual harassment, assault, or rape
Sensitization is a learned fear response of exaggerated emotional responses to certain cues. Research suggests that people can be conditioned to fear something or someone by associating things with a negative event.
For instance, a cue could be a smell, image, or sound. Although a cue may have nothing to do with an adverse event, it provokes fearful thoughts.
In some cases, fear of men can be contagious. Observational conditioning happens as one individual sees someone else experiencing symptoms of a phobia. The first person begins to show fear behaviors when exposed to a cue, although they have never been in danger.
Other Mental Health Disorders
Fear of men may also develop or escalate with other mental illnesses. Psychiatric disorders often overlap and feed on each other. Co-occurring conditions can include addiction, bipolar disorder, or other phobias.
Fear of men and other specific phobias can drive people to misuse alcohol or drugs for escape. Also, substance use disorder further disrupts brain function and can make androphobia worse. Treatment would need to address any comorbidities to be effective.
If you suspect that you have androphobia, mention it to your healthcare provider. They may want to screen you for this or other psychiatric disorders.
Your healthcare provider will likely refer you to a licensed mental health professional for an official diagnosis. The clinician will base their findings on a comprehensive interview, referring to standard diagnostic criteria.
Your mental health professional will be looking for:
- Severe anxiety about a specific thing, males in this case
- That the object of fear (males) almost always incites immediate fear
- That you avoid the object of fear or poorly tolerate it
Treatments may help lessen the severity of symptoms or even help you overcome your fear altogether; however, treatment options are limited.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with exposure therapy has been proven to cure phobias in some people. CBT involves identifying unhealthy or harmful behavior or thought patterns, examining them, and working to change them into healthy ones. Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing someone to the source of their phobia and increasing the closeness little by little.
Medication is not usually prescribed for a phobias in general. However, anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed if you and your healthcare provider feel they’re right for you.
Your healthcare provider can help you find the best method to face your fears and improve your quality of life.
Psychotherapy is talk therapy. This term refers to numerous kinds of treatments designed to help you pinpoint and address undesirable thoughts and emotions.
Psychotherapy happens with a licensed mental health professional in a one-on-one or group setting. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy are common forms of this intervention.
Your healthcare provider or therapist might suggest self-calming techniques such as:
Currently, no data confirms the effectiveness of using medications for treating fear of men specifically. Some medicines might work by decreasing symptoms of related anxiety or depression. However, you should take them only under your healthcare provider’s supervision.
You can help build your inner strength and reduce fear-related stress in many ways. Try one or more of these ideas with your healthcare provider’s approval:
- Keeping a daily journal to track your emotions and behaviors
- Practicing gratitude
- Having a safety net of trusted family or friends to help you in an emotional crisis
- Getting enough sleep each night
Androphobia is an abnormal, uncontrollable fear of men. It causes profound distress at the sight or thought of males. It develops from trauma, environmental influences, or co-occurring mental illnesses such as addiction. Treatment methods vary, but usually include therapy with a mental health professional and relaxation exercises. Medication use is rare, unless there is underlying anxiety and/or depression that need to be treated.
A Word From Verywell
Feeling “wound up” or panicked whenever you see a man is your body’s way of dealing with unresolved conflict. If your fear of men does not go away or if it escalates, your relationships, school or job performance, and overall health can suffer.
It’s impractical to avoid the presence or sight of men altogether. Discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider or mental health professional right away. Be assured that phobias are common, so there’s no need to feel embarrassed.
Talking about your androphobia can release stress and empower you to manage unreasonable fears. Hopefully, you’ll lay aside your qualms and develop positive associations and connections with males.
If you start having chest pain, difficulty breathing, or thought of self-harm when you think of men, please call 9-1-1 for immediate help.