Gynophobia: The Fear of Women

Gynophobia fear of women illustration

Verywell / JR Bee 

Gynophobia is defined as an intense and irrational fear of women. It may be characterized as a form of specific phobia.

Specific phobias involve a fear that is centered on a specific trigger object or situation, which in the case of gynophobia is women. The fear that people experience is far out of proportion to any actual danger that they face, and people with this phobia may recognize that their anxiety is excessive. Understanding that the fear is irrational, however, does not prevent people with a specific phobia from feeling highly anxious and even panicked.

Gynophobia should not be confused with misogyny, which is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. While gynophobia is anxiety-based and involves a fear response, misogyny is a harmful learned cultural attitude.

Gynophobia is not recognized as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), but it could potentially fall under the diagnostic criteria for specific phobias. 

Causes, Triggers, & Risk Factors

Although the exact cause of gynophobia is not well understood, like other specific phobias, both genetic and environmental factors may play a contributing role. Gynophobia is likely heavily influenced by environment and experience.

Negative or traumatic experiences involving women often play the largest role in the onset of this phobia. Mental, physical, or sexual abuse involving women, for example, might lead to feelings of fear or anxiety about being around women.

There are also a number of risk factors that might increase the likelihood that a person will develop gynophobia. Some of these include:

  • Age: In general, children are more susceptible to the development of most phobias.
  • Genetics: People are also more likely to develop a phobia if they have close relatives with anxiety disorders or other phobias.
  • Temperament: People who are more sensitive than others or have a generally pessimistic outlook may have an increased risk of phobia development.


Some of the symptoms a person with gynophobia might experience include:

  • An immediate, overwhelming fear of being around or thinking about women
  • Avoiding activities to prevent possible interaction with women
  • Increasing anxiety as you get nearer to a woman or as you approach a situation where you may have to interact with one

The condition may also cause panic attacks, which typically include some of the following physical symptoms:

  • Sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Rapid heartbeat

As with other specific phobias, these symptoms must be long-lasting and severe enough to impact your school, work, education, or personal life to be considered a true phobia. Although symptoms typically appear by the age of 10, they can continue into adulthood if left untreated.


Fear of women often does not present in isolation, and may reflect broader emotional, personality, or psychiatric issues. While gynophobia is not listed in the DSM-5 and therefore is not recognized as a distinct and diagnosable disorder, its symptoms may meet the diagnostic criteria for a specific phobia:

  • Unreasonable, excessive fear
  • Immediate anxiety response to the source of the fear (in this case, women)
  • Avoidance of the object or extreme distress when it's encountered
  • A significant impact on the individual's life and ability to function

Diagnosis also requires the symptoms to have been present for at least six months and not be caused by another condition.


Just as there is no specific cause of gynophobia, there is also no treatment protocol specifically designed for this condition. Nevertheless, there are still treatments that can help you improve many of the symptoms of gynophobia, including therapy and medication.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is one of the most effective treatments for phobias. Through exposure therapy, you can develop healthy coping mechanisms and desensitize yourself to your fear with support. In the case of gynophobia, a person would gradually be exposed to women until the feelings of fear related to women are reduced or eliminated.

Exposure therapy is gradual and begins with small steps. For example, the process may start with being prompted to think about women or by looking at images of women. During the exercise, your therapist will guide you in practicing relaxation techniques to help ease anxiety symptoms that arise.

The process would continue step-by-step, progressing to more anxiety-producing stimuli, such as hearing audio of women talking, watching videos of women, and, finally, going places where women are present.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) combines exposure therapy and other therapeutic techniques to change your underlying beliefs. It can help you change how you think, feel, and behave when it comes to women.

Gradually challenging your fears and mastering relaxation techniques can give a person with gynophobia a feeling of control over their anxiety when faced with women.


Treatment approaches like exposure therapy and CBT are usually the recommended approach to treating gynophobia. However, your doctor may prescribe medication if gynophobia is causing significant anxiety.

Currently, there are three classes of drugs considered useful in managing the symptoms of phobia:

  • Antidepressants: Commonly used to treat mood disorders, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can also help prevent panic attacks and reduce symptoms of anxiety associated with gynophobia.
  • Beta blockers: This group of drugs is sometimes used to treat the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, and tremors (shaking). They work by changing the way your body reacts to adrenaline, a stress-related hormone. Research also suggests that some beta blockers may also change how the body recalls and responds to fearful memories.
  • Sedatives: Sedatives like benzodiazepines can sometimes be used for a short period to reduce the acute anxiety associated with phobias.

Medication mainly focuses on tackling the symptoms of the phobia, not the underlying cause.


Gynophobia may not seem like a serious problem, but it can hamper your daily activities and make it impossible to lead a normal life. Some of the complications of gynophobia include:

  • Depression: The frustration and isolation associated with gynophobia can lead to feelings of depression.
  • Social isolation: A person with gynophobia may not only avoid social situations where women might be present, but they may also avoid seeking medical treatment for the same reasons.
  • Substance misuse: People with symptoms of gynophobia may start taking drugs or other harmful substances to try to control their anxiety.

Prognosis & Prevention

There is no data specifically related to treatment effectiveness for gynophobia, but the long-term prognosis may be similar to that of other phobias. Research has shown that exposure-based treatments can be particularly effective in the treatment of specific phobias such as gynophobia. All forms of this treatment are better than no treatment, but in vivo (or real-life) exposure has been found to be more effective than imagined exposures in most cases.

There's no way to prevent phobias. However, seeking help immediately after a traumatic experience or at the first sign of anxiety symptoms can help ensure that lingering fears don't escalate into a phobia. The sooner you seek professional treatment, the better your chances of successfully overcoming the phobia.

Parents can also help avoid passing their phobias on to their children by learning effective techniques to manage their stress in a healthy way. As you learn how to tolerate stress, you will, in turn, be teaching your child how to cope with anxiety-provoking situations.

A Word From Verywell

Gynophobia can cause many difficulties in a person's daily life, and when left untreated, it can be particularly disabling. The good news is that it's treatable, so it's important to seek professional help as soon as possible.

Remember that recovering from gynophobia is a process that will take time. Having a support system, seeking appropriate treatment, and being patient with yourself can ensure that you are taking steps toward overcoming your fear.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management.