Pistanthrophobia: When You're Afraid to Trust Others

Pistanthrophobia: When You're Afraid to Trust Others
Sara Clemente

Written and verified by psychologist and journalist Sara Clemente.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Most of us have experienced disappointment or betrayal in love at some point in our lives. And we’ve all experienced how hard it is to trust again whoever wronged us. In itself, trust is not an easy task, but if you also suffer from pistanthrophobia, it can be almost impossible.

Trust is not free and it’s something you either have or don’t have: there’s no in-between. It grows out of months and years of shared relationships and experiences.

We know it takes a long time to earn trust, but very little to lose it. However, they also say that the last thing we lose is hope and that time heals all wounds.

What is pistanthrophobia?

Pistanthrophobia is characterized by an irrational fear of building an intimate and personal relationship with others. Past trauma or harmful experiences carry so much weight that fear overcomes the desire to trust others.

People with this condition begin to feel as if everyone sooner or later will disappoint or betray them. They become extremely distrustful. They’re afraid of the idea that past harms may be repeated and they don’t want to let that happen.

distrust in a relationship

“Why does this always happen to me?” “I’m never going to be happy.” “I’m always going to be alone.” These are some of the words they’ll replay in their heads over and over.

They want to give love and trust but feel like they can’t. Therefore, along with distrust they also feel disappointment, frustration, sadness, anger, guilt, or generalized shame.

Behaviors of pistanthrophobia

No one wants pain, but if we lose our ability to trust, we lose the basis of any interpersonal relationship. The consequences on people with pistanthrophobia are not limited to emotions, but also extend to other areas of their lives: work, family, and romantic relationships.

Their self-suggestions lead them to become antisocial and isolationist. Some of these behaviors are:

  • Avoiding activities that involve close interpersonal contact.
  • Becoming withdrawn because they fear criticism. There’s an exaggerated fear of being judged, rejected, or betrayed.
  • Not attending events or meetings in which they have to meet with strangers they don’t know if they will like.
  • Not taking any risks that could endanger their emotions. They are very reluctant to engage with other people. They feel dread when it comes to opening up to others. For that reason, sometimes they seem solitary, introverted, reserved, and even like “hermits”.
  • Trying to avoid intimate relationships due to their fear of being disappointed again. They don’t want to find a relationship again because of their panic that their trust will be misplaced again.

All these repercussions exponentially get worse the more emotionally involved the person with pistanthrophobia is with the other.

Lack of confidence

Normally, difficulty in trusting others starts with a distrust in oneself. This distrust directly affects the intuition or sixth sense that dictates whether a person is trustworthy or not.

People with pistanthrophobia don’t lack intuition per se, they simply do not trust it. Though people without pistanthrophobia don’t always trust their intuition either, they don’t panic when they’re unsure. Then they trust their judgment when they have nothing else to go on.

This lack of confidence in our intuition often decreases our confidence in other skills, like defending ourselves if someone attacks us. Thus, because we think we are defenseless, we’ll become even more distrustful. In this way, the phobia cycles into a larger problem.

In this context, building relationships becomes a very difficult task. It’s like trying to climb a very high mountain when we have vertigo. The fear of falling increases with each step we take, until we feel we’re no longer even moving forward.

That’s why many people with pistanthrophobia cut off relationships abruptly. They can no longer continue climbing, deepening the relationship.

a distrustful man with pistanthrophobia

Therapy: the best step we can take

Trust won’t come back overnight, neither in oneself nor in others. Therefore, to overcome pistanthrophobia, it’s important to get help. Psychologists can help us recover from our emotional wounds. By attacking the cause, we will likely solve the problem.

  • Learning a good grieving process is vital if we want to trust again. For this, we need to accept the pain we feel and not run from our feelings. Neither should we minimize the problem or look the other way.
  • It takes time and rest. Your emotions have to stabilize, so it’s not a good idea to start a new relationship. You’re probably not ready to trust anyone again without past traumas reappearing.
  • Practice everyday situations that require trust. For example, delegate some things to your partner so your trust gradually increases. Do joint activities to naturalize the disorder.

Trusting another person, besides being a real challenge, is also a vital necessity. The trust we have in those close to us has multiple benefits.

Among them, it increases our happiness and self-confidence, allowing us to face our problems better and with less stress. It’s definitely worth the effort.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.