Ithyphallophobia is the fear of an erect penis. The word is a combination of three Greek words ithy, meaning straight, phallo or phallus meaning penis, and phobos meaning deep aversion or fear. Contrary to what most would believe, this phobia can impact both women and men. A person with Ithyphallophobia is afraid of seeing an erect penis, either through clothing or without it. Some are also afraid of touching an erect penis.
Other names for Ithyphallophobia are Medorthophobia and Phallophobia. Phallophobia consists of a combination of Greek words phallo (penis) and phobos (fear). Medorthophobia consists of two Greek words, namely orthios meaning erect and phobos (fear or aversion).
Let us study the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for Ithyphallophobia.
Causes of Ithyphallophobia
As with most phobias, a traumatic event in the past might be the most common cause of Ithyphallophobia. A woman may feel threatened by the erect penis owing to sexual abuse or rape in the past. Even seeing a man’s erect penis through clothing can cause a panic attack in such cases.
Men with Ithyphallophobia often feel embarrassed by it. As a child, the Ithyphallophobe may have been teased or made to feel ashamed by it. Caregivers (parents, aunts, uncles or grandparents) might have rebuked the individual for it. This may leave an indelible mark on the child’s young mind and eventually translate into a phobia.
Culture and religion can also be a factor in Ithyphallophobia. Some religions look down upon sexual intercourse. Many religious texts state that sexual intercourse is only necessary for reproduction and should not be viewed as a means of pleasure. Orthodox or overly-religious parents may teach their children that sex is dirty. Getting an erection may therefore be frowned upon and may be viewed as an immoral act. A person with anxiety or an impressionable mind might feel that he is a sinner because of this. Women with these morals may also believe they are in the presence of a sinner and feel threatened, repulsed, or scared by it. In a broader sense, Ithyphallophobia is also a fear of masculinity. Women who are afraid of male aggression tend to be scared of an erect penis, the ultimate symbol of male masculinity.
Many times, a phobia is a result of flight or fight response. Genetics or heredity also play a role and some people are more prone to phobias than others. Personality plays a huge role in phobia occurrence; unusually sensitive women (and men) who worry too much can suffer from such phobias.
Stress tends to increase anxiety and how one deals with situations. Untreated, long-term stress can also manifest as a phobia.
Symptoms of Phallophobia
Men who are afraid of erect penises may refrain from wearing light fabrics or sweat pants for the fear of displaying it themselves. Women might avoid certain places like swimming pools, beaches, and gyms where chances of seeing men in revealing clothing are higher. Many Ithyphallophobes also avoid getting into romantic relationships for the fear of sexual intimacy. Common physical and emotional symptoms of Ithyphallophobia are:
- Blurry vision
- Feelings of unreality
- Increased heart rate
- Cold, clammy hands
- Stiff muscles
Hyperventilation or shortness of breath that comes with a panic attack often leads to the following symptoms:
- Severe vertigo
- Nausea and dizziness
- Crushing sensation in the chest/sharp pain
- Paralysis of muscles
- Increased fear
Ithyphallophobes usually realize that their response or reaction to their fear is unreasonable or illogical. Most often, they fear a loss of control or believe that they might end up embarrassing themselves. Often, this becomes a vicious cycle as they keep thinking about encountering the object of their fear and subsequently become afraid of losing control at the sight of it. Over time, these intense emotions and thoughts build up and keep the phobic in a constant state of anxiety. Avoidance becomes a way of life for the phobic, which then impacts many areas of his/her life.
Treatment for fear of erect penises
As with all other phobias, it is important to seek treatment if the phobia affects your ability to live a normal life.
An important aspect of treating any phobia is relaxation. Relaxation helps one control their breathing and when one can control the breath, they can control their thoughts and subsequent reactions. Practicing deep, mindful breathing can help. Inhale to a count of four, hold the breath for a count of 6, and exhale up to a count of 4 or 5. Practice this each time you start feeling anxious. This can help prevent negative thoughts and reduce the symptoms of panic attacks.
Preventing stress is another important part of managing anxiety. Exercise daily and meditate at least once a day for 10-15 minutes. With regular meditation practice, you can learn to identify negative thought patterns and prevent panic attacks. It also helps you build self-confidence and self-esteem.
This is an essential part of treating phobias. The Ithyphallophobe can speak to a person they trust – a friend or a doctor – or even join support groups online or offline.
Cognitive behavior therapy or CBT
CBT is an important method used for treating severe phobias. It is based on helping the individual identify his/her negative thought patterns and changing them to positive ones. An important part of this treatment is gradual exposure to the object of fear – in this case, an erect penis. The phobic may be asked to view photos and read about his/her object of fear. This is done in a safe and controlled manner until the Ithyphallophobe is able to prevent a panic attack.
This has shown great results in treating different phobias. It works by getting to the root cause of the fear and then reprogramming the subconscious mind to overcome negative thought patterns.
Severe cases of Ithyphallophobia need to be treated with drugs like tranquilizers or antidepressants. However, these drugs can have significant side effects that may impact the daily life, so they are often used for short-term treatment.