Venustraphobia: The Fear of Beautiful Women… Is it Real or Fake?

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women

Everyone has something that they are afraid of. We all know someone who will run across the room and jump on a chair when they see a spider or bug in their house, or someone who is afraid of heights and refuses to go on roller coasters. Fear is something that is healthy and inherently designed to protect us. Our bodies are designed to excrete various hormones to alert us to danger or threat to help us make choices that lead us to safety. The problem is that sometimes these hormones send fear signals at times where we have no need to be fearful, thus leading to irrational fears that can impact a person’s daily life.

When someone has an extremely irrational fear that impacts their ability to function throughout the day, mental health and medical professionals will call these fears “phobias”. Phobias have been well researched throughout time and clinicians and researchers alike work to determine how common a particular phobia is and whether or not it fits the criteria of actually being considered a real medical condition. In reality, there are only a few real fears that constitute phobias, and they are usually related to things that a person could really, truly encounter in their everyday life thus impacting their ability to function.

In the age of the internet, phobias have become something that has taken on an overgeneralized and humorous depiction; sites like Reddit, where lots of people communicate about a variety of topics, have inspired threads dedicated to discussing excessive and often obscure fears that people have and the questions of whether or not their fears are diagnosable. As a result, the medical practice of using Latin to come up with names for conditions has been adopted in ways that are not grounded in reality and don’t actually meet criteria for an actual medical diagnosis. Venustraphobia is one of the terms that seems to come more from humor than it does from actual data and research.

Venustraphobia is said to inflict someone who is experiencing “fear of beautiful women”. When scanning the internet, there was little information of any evidence-based research to confirm that this was a real thing or that it was something a community of people even admits to experiencing. While the limited research I did pointed to this being a hoax, it is an interesting concept that may be related to the experience of  symptoms from another mental health issue, and not venustraphobia. While I do not believe that venustraphobia is a real tried and true phobia, it does make sense that someone who is sexually or romantically interested in women could experience severe anxiety around women that they find beautiful, thus impacting their functioning in their personal life.

As children progress into adolescence and then into adulthood, one of the main developmental milestones that they achieve is developing romantic and sexual interest and impulses and learning how to navigate and manage them. A large part of that navigation involves learning how to meet and entice potential mates into romantic experiences with them. In order to do this, a person needs to exhibit desirable qualities, whether or be attractive looks, personality, or some other characteristic that causes another person to be interested in spending time with them and possibly developing an intimate relationship with them down the line. Many people who struggle with self-esteem issues and/or social skills deficits may find it difficult to exhibit the qualities that attract others romantically. Whether they do not feel confident in who they are express that both directly and indirectly, or if they present in awkward or uncomfortable ways and they don’t have any insight into it, these presentations can make it difficult for them to have positive experiences with potential romantic partners.

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If experiencing rejection based on these struggles is a common theme throughout a person’s life, they could develop an anxiety or fear around people that they are attracted to. This could cause a person to develop strategies used to avoid being in situations where they need to interact with attractive women, and they could develop an intense fear surrounding situations where attractive women may be. While this is very plausible, it doesn’t necessarily meet criteria of a phobia, instead it is more a symptom of either depression, anxiety, or even a traumatic experience. If a person is experiencing significant impairment in their social life, occupational life, or overall health as a result of symptoms that cause them to experience anxiety around women, seeking support from a trained mental health professional can help them to improve their ability to manage their anxiety and improve their quality of life. 

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Dr. Shannon McHugh is a Licensed Clinical and Forensic Psychologist in Los Angeles, California. She specializes in assessment and treatment of children, adolescents, and adults who have developmental and social delays, behavioral difficulties, and those who have experienced traumatic events
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