What Is Paraphobia?

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What Is the Paraphobia?

Paraphobia involves a fear of sexual perversion. It is a complicated phobia that can be influenced by a number of factors including upbringing and cultural influences. Some people fear that they have some type of perversion while others worry about the perceived perversions of others. This is further complicated by the fact that what is considered a perversion can vary from one person or culture to the next.

It is important to note that paraphobia is not recognized as a distinct disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the tool that doctors and mental health professionals use to diagnose mental health conditions. Instead, it may be diagnosed as a specific phobia, which involves an excessive and distressing fear of something such as an object or situation.

Symptoms

A phobia is distinguished from normal fear by the presence of a number of different symptoms. These symptoms are not only excessive; they also interfere with a person's ability to live their life normally. A person with a specific phobia connected to a fear of sexual perversion may experience symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Dry mouth
  • Feelings of dread
  • Irrational fear
  • Nausea
  • Panic
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Terror

In some cases, people may even experience panic attacks as a result of their fear. Symptoms of panic attacks include racing heartbeat and rapid breathing. People may have difficulty breathing or feel that they are having a heart attack.

Diagnosis

While paraphobia is not an officially recognized diagnosis, your doctor may diagnose you with a specific phobia if your symptoms meet the criteria for that condition. In order to be diagnosed with a specific phobia, the following must be present:

  • A person must experience excessive and unreasonable fear in response to the feared situation or object.
  • The fear must also result in an immediate anxiety response.
  • The person must also go out of their way to avoid the source of their fear or endure it with extreme distress.

A specific phobia diagnosis must also involve symptoms that are life-limiting, last six months or longer, and not be caused by another condition.

In order to diagnose this condition, your doctor will also want to rule out other disorders that might be causing your symptoms, such as substance use disorders, schizophrenia, paranoid personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Your doctor may rule out other types of specific phobias such as erotophobia (the fear of sex).

It is important to note that phobias are only diagnosed if the fear causes difficulty in everyday life. For example, if two people who agree on their personal boundaries and comfort zones marry or form a relationship, they may be perfectly happy throughout their lives. Difficulties may arise, however, if your definition of perversion is different than your partner's, or if you find it tough to form relationships at all due to your fear.

Causes

The exact causes of paraphobia are not known, but it is likely that a number of different factors play a role. Like other specific phobias, factors that can contribute to paraphobia include:

  • Brain abnormalities: Differences in how the brain works may play a role in the development of phobias as well as other anxiety disorders.
  • Genetics: Research suggests that genetic influences may predispose some people to develop phobias and other anxiety conditions.
  • Family history: Having a family member who has a phobia may increase your likelihood of also developing a phobia.
  • Negative experiences: Specific phobias are often connected to negative or traumatic experiences involving the source of the fear.
  • Upbringing: The development of paraphobia may also be influenced by cultural or religious upbringing. Being raised with specific beliefs about sex and sexual taboos may play a role in developing a fear of sexual perversion.

Some common underlying fears can also contribute to the development of this phobia. For example, this might include such things as a fear of humiliation, fear of rejection, or fear of intimacy.

Impact of Paraphobia

Like other types of specific phobias, paraphobia can have a serious impact on a person's life. It may lead to problems in areas including school, work, home life, and relationships. People who are afraid of sexual perversion (either in themselves or in others), may find it difficult to form and maintain relationships with other people.

In some cases, people may become so afraid of experiencing symptoms of their condition that they avoid certain settings or situations entirely. This may make it difficult for people to go to school or work as they normally do.

Specific phobias can also contribute to feelings of helplessness, isolation, loneliness, and shame. Fortunately, the symptoms of this condition can be managed effectively with appropriate treatment.

Treatment

Specific phobias can be effectively treated with psychotherapy and medication. If your fear causes problems in your daily life, it is important to address it with a compassionate and nonjudgmental therapist.

Psychotherapy

The most effective treatment for specific phobias is an approach known as exposure therapy. This process involves gradually and progressively being exposed to the source of the fear. Eventually, people are able to become accustomed to the feared object or situation and learn that their symptoms are manageable.

Exposure is often combined with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which works to identify and change the anxious, negative thoughts that contribute to phobic responses. 

If you feel that your cultural or religious background may play a role in your fear, you may want to meet with a trusted religious adviser as an adjunct to mainstream therapy.

Medication

Medications are sometimes prescribed to help manage anxiety symptoms, particularly during the early stages of treatment. Some medications that may be used include selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines. These medications are most effective when they are used in conjunction with psychotherapy.

If you or a loved one are struggling with a phobia, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Coping

In addition to getting help from a professional, there are also steps that you can take to help manage the symptoms of paraphobia. Some strategies you might find effective include:

  • Deep breathing can be a helpful relaxation technique. It can be particularly useful when you are facing a situation that provokes feelings of fear or anxiety.
  • Exercise can be a great way to relieve feelings of stress. It may also help you manage feelings of anxiety.
  • Meditation can be a helpful relaxation technique that can help you feel more connected and aware of your body's reactions to stress.
  • Mindfulness involves a focus on the present and may help you manage feelings of worry and anxiety related to your phobia.

Keep in mind that it is never acceptable for your partner to force you to participate in activities that make you feel uncomfortable, or to make you feel bad about your decision not to participate. Likewise, it is unacceptable for you to harshly judge your partner for an interest in expanding the range of sexual activities (provided that the suggested activities are legal and not harmful).

If you are currently in a relationship, it is essential that you and your partner use open communication and mutual respect to come to an understanding. Many couples find that seeing a therapist together is a helpful step in learning to accept and balance their individual needs and desires.

A Word From Verywell

Working through paraphobia is a delicate and sensitive process that may take some time. With hard work and an understanding therapist, however, there is no reason for your fear to control your life. Effective treatments for specific phobias such as paraphobia are available, so talk to your doctor or mental health professional if symptoms of your condition are interfering with your life.

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9 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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