The need to be loved is a universal trait that all humans share. According to Psychology Today, being loved and loving others in return — whether in a romantic sense or not — is one of the most fundamental human needs, so developing a fear of love can be just as detrimental as a fear of other basic requirements for a happy and fulfilled life.
Feeling anxious or a little afraid as you start to fall in love with someone new is common, but when you fear love to the point of avoidance, you may be experiencing philophobia. This is when the fear of love is so extreme that it begins interfering with your relationships, per Cleveland Clinic. Despite wanting love, people with philophobia often sabotage their own relationships because their fear is greater than their desire.
Marriage.com points out that philophobia often leads to physical symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, and an increased heart rate, in addition to intense feelings of fear. There are several common causes of philophobia, including past trauma or negative relationship experiences, genetics, and other mental health issues.
Fearing something that you inherently desire can lead to severe frustration and distress, and can significantly affect the quality of your life. But there are proven ways to deal with philophobia and open yourself up to falling in love.
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Accept the fear (and don’t beat yourself up)
If you have a fear of falling in love, the first thing to do is accept it as a valid fear. Philophobia features similar traits to other common phobias and can have a major impact on your life, per Healthline. Because love is a basic human need, people may try to make you feel like your fear is silly or something you can just brush off. But it's as real as any other fear, so don't beat yourself up for experiencing it.
Author, speaker, and Rapid Transformational Therapy trainer Marisa Peer explains that self-love is a crucial element in overcoming a fear of falling in love. A lack of love for yourself can create a void inside you that can lead to several negative outcomes, including fearing love with others. You can practice self-love by accepting yourself as you are and repeating affirmations out loud that you'd like to hear from a partner.
One of the most popular and effective treatments for philophobia is therapy. As WebMD notes, it's important to get to the root cause of why you fear love, and talking with a therapist can help you to uncover events in your past that may have led to your present fear. A therapist may also give you coping mechanisms to deal with the symptoms of your fear, such as breathing exercises.
You can also treat more persistent cases of philophobia with medication, per Medical News Today. Antidepressants or beta-blockers may be prescribed, along with therapy, if your phobia is significantly impacting your life.
Understand and change your patterns
Those who fear falling in love may sabotage their own relationships to protect themselves from their fear. Marisa Peer recommends studying your own behavior to understand your triggers and patterns when it comes to relationships, and identify when you might be interfering with your happiness. Once you have recognized your patterns, you can begin to dismantle them.
For example, you might look for something wrong with every person you date so you never have to progress to falling in love, or you might frequently feel unable to tell your partner that you love them. Make a note of patterns like this and remind yourself that they are just feeding your fear and not actually serving you. Though it may feel strange at first, try to replace them with more helpful behaviors that don't disrupt your relationships. If you're always finding flaws in everyone, remind yourself that no one is perfect, and a few flaws aren't a reason to write someone off.
Challenge your negative inner voice
Following along those lines, you can further work through your fear of love by challenging your negative inner voice that fuels your phobia, per Psychology Today. Pay attention to your thoughts without judgment for a few weeks and notice how often you hear a negative voice sending you harmful messages about love.
Many people with philophobia will think things like, "You better leave him before he leaves you," or "Falling in love means losing my identity." Notice these thoughts, acknowledge that they're thoughts rather than truths, and reframe them. Try to question your inner critic by asking, "Why would he leave me?" and "What evidence proves that falling in love means losing my identity?" When you challenge these messages, you'll eventually realize that they're baseless.
Don’t commit to just anybody
A fear of falling in love is usually exacerbated by a low-quality partner. When you're in a relationship that confirms all the things you fear about relationships, you're not likely to get over your fear anytime soon. Brides recommends being very picky about who you commit yourself to. While everybody has flaws, avoid committing to someone who is not trustworthy, kind, or respectful. Take your time to find someone who will show you how wonderful relationships can be.