Genuphobia: The Fear of Knees

Man's hands grabbing his knee

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The fear of knees, or genuphobia, is relatively rare. Like most phobias, genuphobia varies widely in severity. Some people are afraid only of seeing uncovered knees in person, while others are afraid of bare knees even on film. People with this phobia may be afraid of all knees or only their own. Some people are actually scared of kneeling.

Causes of Genuphobia

Genuphobia is often, but not always, triggered by a negative experience. If you have experienced a traumatic knee injury, you may be more likely to develop this fear. However, the traumatic experience need not have happened to you personally. Seeing a major knee injury happen to a friend or relative may be enough to trigger the fear. In some cases, genuphobia develops after watching a character's kneecaps get broken in a gangster film.

Childhood experiences may also influence the development of phobias. Some cases of genuphobia can be traced to a highly religious or culturally conservative upbringing. Many religions and some cultures require conservative dress. Choosing not to reveal your knees or look at someone else's for religious or cultural reasons is not diagnosable as a phobia.

However, an issue can arise in those who no longer practice a conservative religion or live in a conservative culture. Many people transition into mainstream secular life without significant difficulties. But some people find themselves stuck, unable to overcome years of religious or cultural training. If you are unable to overcome your fear of knees, consultation with a mental health professional or a spiritual advisor in your new religion of choice may be in order.

Some cases of genuphobia have no apparent cause at all. Fortunately, it is rarely necessary to understand the cause of a phobia in order to successfully treat it.


Mainstream society today is exceptionally body-conscious. From formal wear to sports attire, virtually all forms of clothing offer short options that show off the legs. It would be nearly impossible to venture out of the house without seeing someone else's knees.

Even if your fear is strictly of your own knees, it may be extremely difficult to keep them covered at all times. Restricting your clothing to only those items that fully cover your knees could make it difficult to swim, participate in some sports, or wear certain items of clothing. It might even be difficult or impossible for you to take certain jobs, as some uniforms consist of shorts or skirts that are above the knee.

Intimacy could also pose a problem. Some people with genuphobia are extremely sensitive about having their knees touched or touching someone else's. It is difficult to share a bed with someone else without ever brushing against each other's knees.

Fear of Kneeling

The fear of kneeling technically falls under the term "genuphobia," although it may be an entirely separate fear. Some people with a fear of kneeling are also uncomfortable with knees in general, but many are not. Instead, the fear of kneeling is often rooted in self-consciousness or fears of submission and vulnerability. This phobia may cause difficulty in religious practice, some sports, and the performance of certain job duties.

Some people are unable to kneel due to medical conditions. Although there may be some affiliated fear of pain or of being unable to get back up, this is not actually considered a phobia. However, it is possible to develop a fear of kneeling during a temporary injury that does not subside when the injury heals.

Coping With Genuphobia

Like most phobias, the fear of knees varies widely in severity and the level at which it affects sufferers' lives. Many people have a relatively mild fear that can be kept under control by simply averting their eyes from other people's knees. If your phobia is more severe, however, you may need professional assistance.

Your therapist will work with you to develop a treatment plan to overcome your fear. Cognitive-behavioral techniques, hypnotherapy, and other measures may be used. If your fear is affecting your life, ask your therapist for some techniques to keep your fear under control while you are undergoing treatment.

2 Sources
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  1. Reynolds G, Field AP, Askew C. Preventing the development of observationally learnt Fears in children by devaluing the model's negative responseJ Abnorm Child Psychol. 2015;43(7):1355–1367. doi:10.1007/s10802-015-0004-0

  2. Almeida A, Araujo Filho G, Berberian A et al. The impacts of cognitive-behavioral therapy on the treatment of phobic disorders measured by functional neuroimaging techniques: a systematic review. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria. 2013;35(3):279-283. doi:10.1590/1516-4446-2012-0922

Additional Reading
  • American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Washington, DC; 2013.

By Lisa Fritscher
Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics.