What is Coitophobia?

J.L. Drede

Coitophobia is an irrational and abnormal fear of sexual intercourse. The word is derived from the Latin "coitus," for sex, and the Greek "phobia," for fear. It is often used interchangeably with the term genophobia and is sometimes referred to as erotphobia, although that term is less common.

Couples therapy may address problems with coitophobia.
Couples therapy may address problems with coitophobia.

When presented with the opportunity to have sex, sufferers of coitophobia will be overcome with feelings of dread, panic and terror. Physical symptoms of extreme anxiety, such as a rapid heartbeat, upset stomach and trembling will usually accompany these feelings. Many times people with coitophobia will resort to asexuality, a complete lack of sexual contact, to avoid the possibility of a sexual encounter. If a person with coitophobia decides to cut off all sexual contact as a result of their fear, they may develop depression and the symptoms that come along with that.

Coitophobia is the fear of sexual intercourse.
Coitophobia is the fear of sexual intercourse.

For many who suffer from a fear of sexual intercourse, the phobia can be traced back to an earlier sexual trauma. Rape victims and survivors of sexual abuse or incest will many times develop an averse reaction to sexual contact. They learn to associate sexual activity to both physical and mental pain and not as an activity that can be enjoyed. This can happen both to people who were abused as a child and those who suffered an assault as an adult.

Someone with coitophobia will often turn to asexuality to avoid contact.
Someone with coitophobia will often turn to asexuality to avoid contact.

Sometimes coitophobia isn't a condition in of itself but a symptom of another phobia or anxiety disorder. A woman might not have a fear of sex per se , but instead she might have an overwhelming fear of an unwanted pregnancy. A man who has suffered from erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation in the past may also develop a fear of sex in response to his sexual problems. Individuals with a low opinion of their appearance may also fear sex because they don't want to be seen naked.

Treatment for coitophobia usually involves some sort of psychological therapy. Those who have negative feelings associated with sex because of rape or abuse especially need treatment to overcome their fears of sexual intercourse. Anti-anxiety medication may be used in conjunction with therapy.

If coitophobia is a symptom of another problem, such as erectile dysfunction or poor self-image, then treatment of those conditions will usually help to alleviate the sexual insecurities. This, too, may include some combination of both medication and therapy sessions. If the person is in a relationship with someone, then couples therapy may be recommended as well.

Victims of sexual abuse may develop coitophobia.
Victims of sexual abuse may develop coitophobia.

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