Venustraphobia: A type of anxiety disorder related to exposure to attractive women.
Although it does not happen to everyone, it is not uncommon that when we are strongly attracted to someone things happen such as our hands sweating, we turn red if they look at us or that at a specific moment we do not know what to say or what to talk about. It is about a certain shyness in front of a person who attracts us, but who does not generate a greater impediment to us.
Now, let’s imagine that this happens to us with all the people that we find very attractive. And now let’s imagine that we are not only talking about discomfort, but about an intense panic that leads us to an anxiety crisis and that causes us to flee from the situations in which these types of people can be. We are talking about a phobia, which in the case of referring to women who are considered attractive or beautiful is called venustraphobia.
What is venustraphobia?
We call phobia venustraphobia or caliginephobia to women considered very attractive by the person who suffers from it.
Thus, the stimulus or phobic situation is the presence of physically very attractive women or considered as such by the person suffering from the phobia. It is not necessary that there be an interaction, but the simple presence of the stimulus could be enough to arouse great anxiety. But they will also generate some anxiety and situations and places, where they may appear, will be avoided.
It is important to bear in mind that we are dealing with a phobia and not with a simple fear or shyness, which to a certain extent is logical when facing situations in which we expose ourselves to someone who attracts us. It is a very rare phobia but of which there are several cases.
Venustraphobia implies the presence of extreme and irrational panic and anxiety levels towards a stimulus or situation, a fear that usually generates physiological symptoms such as hyperventilation, tachycardia, cold sweats, tremors and that can even generate anxiety attacks.
Likewise, the person feels so much anxiety that in fear of feeling it again, they will tend to avoid as much as possible exposing themselves to situations where they have to face the feared stimulus or believe that they may encounter it, or in case of need they can get to face the situation but at the cost of suffering great anxiety.
It must be appreciated that what generates anxiety is a subjective element: not all of us consider attractiveness in the same way. In general, those people who conform to current beauty standards tend to generate anxiety, although depending on each person the characteristics that cause anxiety will vary.
Likewise, it is not essential that there be an affective-sexual interest towards the person in question, but simply that it is a woman who is considered as highly attractive.
Although it is more common in heterosexual men, venustraphobia can be suffered by both men and women regardless of their sexual orientation.
Effects on everyday life
Venustraphobia can have significant repercussions for the person. The felt anxiety usually generates a high level of suffering and alters the habitual functioning.
In this sense, it can affect at various levels. At the work level, it can generate complications at the level of hindering teamwork and reducing the productivity and capacity of the affected person, while at the social level it can restrict social relationships (it becomes difficult to establish or maintain relationships, women who are very attractive are directly avoided or the groups in which they are included …) and to avoid situations, places or areas where it is considered that women considered attractive may appear: sports, cinema, fashion …
In extreme cases, it would be possible to reach isolation and confinement in the home, although this is rare.
Possible causes of venustraphobia
Although the exact causes of venustraphobia are not known, it is considered that, like the rest of them, venustraphobia may have a multifactorial origin or etiology.
Although an evolutionary explanation could be found (there could be pressure and anxiety in the case of heterosexual men and homosexual women to woo a partner considered attractive, while in heterosexual women it could be anxiety linked to competition) It is generally considered that this phobia has a character more linked to cognitive, psychological and learning factors.
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One of the factors that seem to be more common is the existence of some traumatic event or aversive experience in the past in which either an attractive woman had to see or the discomfort was associated with said person. It can be a love failure, a divorce, teasing, and humiliation with respect to one’s physical appearance compared to other people (for example in the case of bullying).
In this case, it would be a form of conditioning, in which it would have been learned to associate women who are considered beautiful with pain, anxiety, or suffering.
The existence of cognitive distortions linked to the anticipation that the woman will criticize him/her or find him ridiculous is also frequently observed, often also magnifying the attractiveness of said person and underestimating one’s qualities.
It is not uncommon for there to be great insecurity on the part of those who suffer from this phobia, which can make it difficult for them to face the idea of interacting with someone they consider more attractive than themselves, often with a possible sense of inferiority. They may consider that person or the qualities they represent for the subject as unattainable. A comorbid social skills deficit may also exist, although this does not always occur.
Treatment of venustraphobia
As with the rest of phobias, venustraphobia can be treated through various psychological techniques, the most common and effective of them being live exposure.
The exposure technique is based on making the subject face the feared situation in order not to eliminate, but to effectively manage the anxiety they feel and without the need to avoid it. For this, a hierarchy of exposure will be created first between the professional and the patient, a list of anxiety-generating situations that will be ordered from least to greatest according to the level of anxiety they cause.
The subject will gradually face each of them (generally starting with those that generate medium anxiety), in such a way that in the presence of the significant stimulus anxiety will appear that over time will diminish by itself. When two exposures are carried out without anxiety appearing or this has been greatly reduced, you can move on to the next item.
It will also be necessary to work on a cognitive level, first analyzing what causes anxiety in the patient (knowing the specific elements and others that may influence are necessary to correctly elaborate the hierarchy, in addition to having other possible applications), what it means for him or her this anxiety, what you attribute it to and how it affects you Likewise, it will be discussed what beauty implies for the subject and the beliefs he has regarding it or its importance.
Last but not least, it is relevant to discuss the patient’s self-esteem and his beliefs about himself, about how he is and his abilities, and about how he sees the world (and how it sees him). Cognitive restructuring can then be carried out to modify possible biases and dysfunctional beliefs.
Relaxation techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing or Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation therapy, can also be helpful to help control and lower anxiety levels. They can also be used in the form of systematic desensitization, as an incompatible response to anxiety during exposure.