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Agraphobia is an intense fear of sexual abuse. A person who suffers from agraphobia is afraid of being sexually abused, raped, attacked or involved in a sexually abusive relationship to such an extent that the fear is irrational. For example, a women who suffers from agraphobia might be afraid to be alone in an elevator with any men whom she doesn't know for fear of being sexually assaulted. Someone who suffers from this phobia might or might not have been a victim of sexual abuse or other sexual crime.
This fear might develop in children or young adults who witness sexual violence in movies or television. There also some evidence suggesting that overt and obvious fear in adults that children might be sexually abused could cause this condition. Studies also show that some kids become too fearful of all the negative things that might occur to them, and there has been some effort to modify the way that children are taught about dangers to prevent the creation of irrational fears in children.
Agraphobia sometimes is a short-term condition for people who have been victims of sexual violence. Part of recovery for the agraphobic person is learning how to trust again, no matter whether sexual abuse has ever happened to him or her. There also are programs geared toward working with people who have been sexually assaulted.
The symptoms of this condition can be varied. People who have agraphobia might have difficulty leaving the home because the fear of a sexual attack might increase after a person has left the safety of home. For some, however, even being at home is no guarantee of safety, and they might spend restless days and nights afraid that an attacker will enter their home. Relationships might be difficult to maintain, and even with people who have no ill intent, the agraphobic might be afraid of any form of sexual intimacy. As with most phobias, the fear of danger is exaggerated and can lead to panic attacks with symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, respiration, sweating and trembling.
Therapy and sometimes medication might be the most helpful in treating this phobia, but there can be some inherent problems in conducting therapy. Establishing trust with a person who suffers from agraphobia might take some time, especially if that person believes that the therapist poses a risk of sexual abuse. Sometimes group therapy can be more effective. Using a therapist of the same gender, in certain circumstances, might be easier as well, although this is not always the case.
Agraphobia should not be confused with agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is the fear of open spaces and is an anxiety disorder that often keeps people housebound. They are afraid to leave the safety of their homes, because things outside the home are potentially terrifying, and panic attacks are likely to occur when they encounter the unfamiliar. Agraphobia also can keep people relatively housebound, but this is because of a specific fear of sexual abuse.