Certain life situations are often feared, such as sexual assault (especially women, in the face of a clearly sexist culture). This makes sense, because fear is a warning mechanism that protects us from future dangers.
But what happens when you have this fear all the way to your home? Or when you become obsessed with the fact that at any time you are at risk of being assaulted, raped or sexually abused? Then we talk about contreltophobia. Let’s get to know this phobia in detail.
What is counter-phobia?
Countertophobia (also called agrafobia, not to be confused with agoraphobia) is fear or phobia of sexual abuse, assault, or rape. This fear goes beyond the “normal” fear of this happening, because it makes sense to be afraid that we will be raped or abused.
In addition to the intense fear, one avoids the situations associated with the stimulus or the feared (or phobic) situation (or if they are not avoided, they are endured with great anxiety), interference in daily life, and irrational or disproportionate fear, As we will see later.
We know that counter-phobia is a specific phobia. In the DSM-IV and DSM-5, there are 5 specific types of phobias: animal phobia, natural environment / environmental phobia, wound by blood injection, situation (situational phobia) and finally other types of phobias.
More precisely, counter-phobia could be included in this last category, that of “other types of specific phobia”. This category in turn includes other similar fears, such as choking, vomiting, contracting an illness or, alternatively, fear of disguises or loud noises in children.
The symptoms of counter-phobia are the most prominent of a specific phobia, And which correspond to the diagnostic criteria of DSM-IV and DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) are:
1. Intense fear reactions
This fear is disproportionate to the object or situation that caused it, as well as irrational.
In addition, avoidance responses appear when the phobic stimulus needs to be addressed; or, in case the stimulus is not avoided, it faces a lot of anxiety and / or the presence of a mate.
phobia causes significant discomfort or impaired functioning of the person.
4. Duration of 6 months
To diagnose a specific phobia, this fear must be prolonged for at least 6 months in children under 18 (in the DSM-IV). In DSM-5, however, the specification for “under 18” is removed and the duration is set for all people, regardless of age.
5. Exclusion of other disorders
The symptoms of a phobia cannot be explained by another mental disorder, a medical illness or the effect of a substance.
How does counter-phobia appear?
This fear (not the phobia) usually manifests in women, Especially when they find themselves in certain situations (eg going alone on a secluded street at night; although it should not happen, it continues to happen).
However, when the phobia itself arises, the counter-phobia, it happens in both women and men; in this case, people who suffer from it interpret almost all everyday situations as potentially dangerous. Thus, any situation is feared because it is or is believed to lead to abuse, rape and / or assault.
The causes of counter-phobia can be various. Some of them are:
1. Episodes of sexual abuse
These episodes can also be rape or sexual assault and usually occurred in childhood. This is what we call direct conditioning in psychology.
However, it must be made a good one differential diagnosis in post-traumatic shock or post-traumatic stress disorder (PET), In cases of victims of recent abuse; in these cases, the behavior and the fear are the same, but they are not considered to be a phobia per se.
2. Witness of sexual assault
Conditioning by proxy, or having witnessed or observed a sexual assault on a third person, May also trigger contraception.
3. Transmission of information
It is not always necessary to have been sexually assaulted (or witnessed it in another person) to develop a counter-phobia. Sometimes hearing stories of people who have experienced this type of abuse, assault and / or rape (along with their fear and panic reactions) can be enough to develop a counter-phobia.
Faced with these stories, anxiety can be triggered, And the person immediately put themselves in the victim’s shoes, thinking that this could happen to them in the future as well.
When the initial fear considered “normal” to undergo this damage, triggers a contreltophobia (with the symptoms that this implies), it is advisable to go to a specialist to treat it. It is important that people in the environment put empathy into practice and do not downplay the person’s concerns (even though “on the face of it” they may seem disproportionate).
You will have to try cognitive distortions associated with conrteltophobia (Which can distort reality); it can be done with cognitive behavioral therapy and, more specifically, with cognitive restructuring. On the other hand, this will also include the disproportion of situations considered dangerous or the uncontrollability of fear.
At the level of behavioral treatment, exposure therapy can be used (the exposure to the stimulus or the phobic situation can be diverse), combined with the use of self-instructions and / or relaxation techniques.
- Belloch, A .; Sandín, B. and Ramos, F. (2010). Manual of psychopathology. Volume II. Madrid: McGraw-Hill
- APA (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid. Panamericana.
- Sanchez, L. (2018). Contreltophobia: Treatment of fear of sexual abuse. Women’s Journal