Factors Involved in the Fear of Kissing

A Phobia Known as Philemaphobia

Young couple kissing in the streets

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Philemaphobia, or philematophobia, the fear of kissing, is common among young and inexperienced kissers who are afraid of doing something wrong. In these cases, the fear is generally mild to moderate and dissipates quickly as the person gains experience. Sometimes, however, philemaphobia is more severe and can occur at any age.

Reasons Why People Can Develop a Fear of Kissing

This fear is particularly problematic because it can affect one's ability to form romantic relationships or social interactions. Phobics who have a fear of kissing may also have a fear of sexual intercourse.

Fear of Germs

Philemaphobia is sometimes, but not always, related to the fear of germs. Some people worry about catching a disease, while others are disgusted by the concept of saliva. Many people who experience disgust regarding saliva have a similar reaction to other bodily fluids.

If your fear of kissing is connected to a fear of germs, you may not like "wet" kisses or prefer kisses on the cheeks or light pecks on the lips.

Fear of Bodily Odors

It is normal to be concerned about bad breath, especially when you expect to kiss someone special. But for those with bromidrophobia, or the fear of bodily odors, normal concern may turn to terror. No matter how much mouthwash or breath freshener you use, you may be afraid that your breath is unacceptable. Or that your partner's breath may not be.

Fear of Touch

Although it is rare, the fear of touch can have devastating consequences for those who suffer from it. If you are struggling with a fear of touch, kissing may feel like a violation instead of a pleasurable experience. This can prevent you from having a deep personal connection with a romantic partner and be debilitating from someone who seeks this kind of connection without the normal vulnerability of personal touch.

Fears of Intimacy and Vulnerability

The fear of kissing may stem from a deeper concern over intimacy or vulnerability. Some people are actually more comfortable with having sex, which they view as more impersonal than with kissing, which they see as intimate. These issues are complex and are best faced with the help of a competent, understanding therapist. Kissing can be a wonderful, fulfilling experience when the anxiety associated with philemaphobia is taken away.

Seek treatment for your fear of kissing. A therapist can help you retrace the origins of your fear and eventually assist you in overcoming it.

How to Overcome a Fear of Kissing

If your fear is mild and primarily based on inexperience, you may find that it recedes on its own as you allow yourself to be exposed to kissing more. You may choose to educate yourself on kissing, interact and gradually allow yourself to kiss someone who is aware of your fear or practice the sensation on your own. More severe fears, however, may require professional assistance.

Like all phobias, uncomplicated philemaphobia responds well to a variety of treatment options. If your fear is related to another phobia or deeper emotional concerns, your therapist will develop a treatment plan that addresses this.

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  • American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.