Paraphobia Symptoms and Treatment

What to Know About the Fear of Sexual Perversion

Man looking at his phone with a worried expression.

Imperia Staffieri / Getty Images

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

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 of Paraphobia

A phobia differs from normal fear by its symptoms. These symptoms are excessive and interfere with a person's ability to live normally. A person who has 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.


Although 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. The following must be present:

  • Excessive, unreasonable fear of a situation or object
  • Immediate anxiety response to the fear
  • Efforts to avoid the source of fear or extreme distress upon exposure

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

Your doctor will 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).

Phobias are diagnosed only 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 can be perfectly happy throughout their lives. Difficulties may arise, however, if one partner's definition of perversion is different than the other's, or the person has difficulty forming a relationship as a result of the fear.

How Common Is Paraphobia?

Because so many people who have paraphobia suffer in silence and shame, statistics on the disorder are hard to come by. We do know, however, that it occurs almost exclusively in men.


The exact causes of paraphobia are not known, but various factors likely play a role. As with other specific phobias, factors that can contribute to paraphobia include:

  • Brain abnormalities
  • Genetics
  • Family history
  • Negative or traumatic experiences
  • Upbringing

Some common underlying fears—for example, of humiliation, rejection, or intimacy—can help cause this phobia to develop

Impact of Paraphobia

Like other types of specific phobias, paraphobia can have a serious impact on a person's life. It can lead to problems with 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 can make going to school or work very difficult.

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


Psychotherapy and medication are usually effective. If your fear causes problems in daily life, address it with a compassionate and nonjudgmental therapist.


The most effective treatment for specific phobias is exposure therapy. This process involves gradually and progressively being exposed to the source of the fear. Eventually, people 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 helps identify and change anxious, negative thoughts that contribute to phobic responses. 

If you feel that your cultural or religious background is playing a role in your fear, consider meeting with a trusted religious adviser as an adjunct to mainstream therapy.


Medications such as selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepinesare sometimes prescribed to help manage anxiety symptoms, particularly during the early stages of treatment. These medications are most effective when 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.

Living With Paraphobia

You can help manage the symptoms of paraphobia with these strategies:

  • Deep breathing can be a helpful relaxation technique, particularly in situations that provoke fear or anxiety.
  • Exercise can help relieve stress and manage anxiety.
  • Meditation 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 worry and anxiety related to your phobia.

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. Likewise, it is unacceptable to judge your partner for an interest in expanding the range of your sexual activities together, provided that they're legal and safe.

If you are in a relationship, open communication and mutual respect are essential. Many couples find that seeing a therapist together is helpful in learning to accept and balance individual needs and desires.

Working through paraphobia is a delicate and sensitive process that takes 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 in your daily life.

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.
  1. Cleveland Clinic. Panic disorder.

  2. Samra CK, Abdijadid S. Specific phobia. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing.

  3. Garcia R. Neurobiology of fear and specific phobiasLearn Mem. 2017;24(9):462-471. doi:10.1101/lm.044115.116

  4. Loken EK, Hettema JM, Aggen SH, Kendler KS. The structure of genetic and environmental risk factors for fears and phobiasPsychol Med. 2014;44(11):2375-2384. doi:10.1017/S0033291713003012

  5. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Phobias.

  6. Ma X, Yue ZQ, Gong ZQ, et al. The effect of diaphragmatic breathing on attention, negative affect and stress in healthy adultsFront Psychol. 2017;8:874. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874

  7. Aylett E, Small N, Bower P. Exercise in the treatment of clinical anxiety in general practice - a systematic review and meta-analysisBMC Health Serv Res. 2018;18(1):559. doi:10.1186/s12913-018-3313-5

  8. Chen KW, Berger CC, Manheimer E, et al. Meditative therapies for reducing anxiety: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trialsDepress Anxiety. 2012;29(7):545-562. doi:10.1002/da.21964

  9. Hofmann SG, Sawyer AT, Witt AA, Oh D. The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic reviewJ Consult Clin Psychol. 2010;78(2):169-183. doi:10.1037/a0018555

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