Commitment phobia definition

Signs That You or Your Partner Has It

Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors

In this Article

  • What Is Commitment Phobia?
  • Signs of Commitment Phobia
  • Dealing with Commitment Phobia

If you fear getting close to people or making relationship decisions that have a long-lasting effect, such as getting married, you might have commitment phobia. It is common to fear the unknown, but people with commitment phobia can extend this fear to other parts of their life — especially romantic relationships.

What Is Commitment Phobia?

Commitment phobia can include fear of commitment across several dimensions, not just romantic relationships. It can include fear of deep friendship and a reluctance to commit to a job or career. 

Cultural trends and technology have influenced people’s search for love and work. A lot of opportunities have opened up, creating an abundance of choice that can be overwhelming and contribute to people’s hesitation to commit.

A comparative study found that Generation X (people born between the early 1960s and the early 1980s) displayed less workplace commitment and greater likeliness to quit than the Baby Boomer generation (those born from 1940s to 1960s). Baby Boomers, however, experienced greater job satisfaction.

Childhood experience can also contribute to commitment avoidance. When parents are overly intrusive or unresponsive, some children grow into adults who fear emotional dependence. They may reject deeper relationships as a preemptive defense.

There is nothing wrong with casual dating or with keeping career prospects open — at least not until it causes you to harm others or sabotage your own well-being.

Be on the lookout for the following signs of commitment phobia. They may be indications that you are denying yourself meaningful relationships and opportunities. In a partner, they may be a sign that they cannot give you the kind of relationship you need.

Signs of Commitment Phobia

There is no way to test for commitment phobia. People with it may show some of these symptoms or none at all. However, these signs should prompt you to think about your choices or relationships.

Speech Habits

People with commitment phobia often give themselves away subconsciously. They overuse some words and are reluctant to say others.

People with commitment phobia often hesitate to use the word “love” or to define relationships through such terms as boyfriend or girlfriend. 

They also may over-rely on modifiers such as “might,” “probably,” or “if nothing comes up.” When they use these words, they display hesitation with regard to minimal commitments, which  doesn’t bode well for their ability to make larger ones.

Reluctance to Make Plans

Getting people with commitment phobia to nail down plans is difficult, and it only gets harder the further out those plans are. Does the thought of committing to a movie next weekend inspire a slight twinge of anxiety? How about a wedding two months from now? 

Scripts for Failure or Failure to Script

People with commitment phobia often go into relationships under the assumption that they won’t work out. They plan for failure but not for success, and their predictions become self-fulfilling.

On the other hand, a complete inability to contemplate the future of the relationship — in positive or negative terms — is also a sign that a person might be wrestling with commitment phobia.

Healthy Social Network and Previous Attachments

People with secure attachment styles tend to have multiple close friendships. Commitment-phobic individuals sometimes have smaller or more superficial circles of friends.

A romantic history that includes real, long-term relationships is also a good sign. If they only have experience with short flings or one-night stands, they may not be ready to commit.

Fear of Being Trapped or Erased

Do they express concern over becoming an “us” or speak negatively about the way that others disappear into relationships? They may not feel secure in their sense of self and fear the way that a relationship will impact their identity.  

A fear of being trapped and missing out on other experiences could also indicate commitment phobia.

Self-Centered Behavior

One of the biggest predictors of commitment and relationship success is the willingness to consider the future of the relationship and even make sacrifices for it. If they are reluctant to put their partner’s needs first or avoid the word “we” in favor of “I,” they may have commitment phobia. 

Dealing with Commitment Phobia

Remember that there’s nothing wrong with not being ready for a relationship — or even with not desiring one at all. Happiness and love are the goals, and you may find that these aren’t expressed within a traditional relationship for you.

If you suspect that your partner might have commitment phobia, talk to them about it. If they aren’t willing to have that conversation, it may be an indication that they aren’t ready for the kind of openness and intimacy a healthy relationship demands.

If you feel that commitment phobia is getting in the way of your own happiness, practice intimacy and communication. Work on expressing your needs and emotions with friends and family. 

You can also practice making plans. RSVP early for a friend’s birthday or make plans to take a family trip sometime next autumn.

10 Signs That Your Lover Is Commitment Phobic

Source: Berit Brogaard

True commitment phobia is fear of any kind of commitment that involves other people — not just relationship commitment. It can involve difficulties making important decisions in all areas of life. However, folks with commitment phobia aren't afraid of committing to things that do not involve other people. They may have no problem buying a house or a car or getting a dog. Their fear usually is connected with making a promise to another person.

Falling in love with a person with commitment phobia can be a nightmare. Watch out for signs of commitment phobia before you find yourself hopelessly in love with someone who is not capable of having a relationship. A person with commitment phobia need not display every one of the following symptoms, but the more symptoms he or she displays, the more likely it is that he or she suffers from the condition.

1. Their past relationships are all short and/or very noncommittal.

If your beau has never been married and has had a series of short relationships despite not being all that young, then he or she probably is not likely to commit to a long-term relationship in the future, either. It’s also a red flag if your romantic encounter has had long relationships but these relationships didn’t involve any serious commitment on his or her part.

2. They are not willing to commit to dates or nights out weeks in advance.

Making plans for the future that are not strictly required is a major cause of fear for someone who suffers from commitment phobia. He or she will prefer to make same-day plans or commit only a few days in advance.

3. They are not letting you know whether they are attending your party.

Just as a person with commitment phobia will be afraid of agreeing to dates several days or week in advance, he or she will also have difficulties saying "yes" to a party or meeting, unless this is strictly required of them. They may say that they might come to your party or even that they probably will be there. But they will prefer not to say with certainty that they can make it.

4. They use a lot of modifiers when speaking.

If you listen carefully, you will hear them use ‘probably’, ‘maybe’, ‘probably not’, ‘I might’, ‘I might not’ and the like much more than other people. If asked when they will be home from work, they won’t say they will be home by 5. Instead they will say that they probably will be home by 5.

5. They are sexually active, perhaps even promiscuous.

People with commitment phobia have a need for intimacy like everyone else. But their need is not getting met by being close to another human being. To compensate for this, they may be very sexually active, sometimes bordering promiscuous.

6. Most of their relationships are undefined.

If you are in a relationship with a person with commitment phobia, you most likely will not have had any significant conversations with him or her about your relationship. You may find yourself not knowing what kind of relationship you have, despite having been with him or her for several years.

7. They don't say the L-word.

People with commitment phobia have difficulties expressing their feelings. They may even be afraid of having feelings. So they are not likely to say that they love you and also mean it.

8. They don't like to use the words "boyfriend" and "girlfriend."

If your love interest is very commitment phobic, even the relatively innocent words "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" will signify more commitment than they are capable of. They may simply avoid talking about the status of your relationship, or they may offer some lame excuse for why they don't want to use these labels.

9. They don't have a whole lot of close friends.

They may know a lot of people. They may even call them friends. But they don't have many really close buddies. There is most likely no one in their life they can talk to about everything.

10. They are unpredictable.

You never know quite how your love interest will behave or what kind of mood they will be in. One day they may be really sweet and seem almost normal, and the next day they may avoid you altogether. Their behavior never ceases to surprise you.

Fear of responsibility (hypengiophobia in psychology): why people - men, women and even perfectionists

Sociological research data show that the fear of responsibility is one of the most common types of phobias. But often a person is not able to understand and recognize the presence of this mental disorder.

He convinces himself and those around him that simply too much is required of him.

Let us consider in more detail how hypengiophobia differs from deliberate evasion of responsibility for the reason that it is more convenient for a person to live this way or he is simply not confident in his abilities. nine0003


  • Hypengiophobia in psychology
  • What is another name?
  • Why are people afraid to make commitments?
  • Predisposition
  • Symptoms of this phobia
  • Diagnosis
  • How to get rid of fear yourself?
  • When to contact a professional?
  • How to stop panicking: methods of therapy
  • Prevention
  • Consequences and prognosis
  • Related videos
  • Conclusion

Hypengiophobia in psychology

Fear of responsibility is the scourge of modern man. In psychology, this disorder is called hypengiophobia - a tendency to avoid any obligations in life. This is a type of social phobia . The essence of hypengiophobia is that a person is overcome by panic fear when it becomes necessary to take responsibility for any event.

He is afraid of not coping with the obligations that have arisen, he is afraid of possible consequences, for example, condemnation, criticism, loss of existing interpersonal relationships. Moreover, these can be elementary things that are quite within the power of an unprepared person. nine0003

Pathology can occur in people of any age, both in men and women. Psychologists believe that such people lack basic trust in the world around them .

No matter how hard the hypengiophobe tries to avoid situations in order not to make decisions, in practice this is impossible. Nervous tension depletes the body and provokes the development of psychosomatic diseases. A person suffering from an obsessive fear of responsibility often develops depression against the background of frequent stress. nine0003

Hypengiophobes are not able to create harmonious relationships in marriage. While the disease progresses, there is no question of career growth at work.

What is another name?

A synonym for hypengiophobia is the term hypengiophobia (Greek hypengion means responsibility).

A narrower concept is autohypengiophobia, when a person is panicky afraid to take responsibility for what is happening.

Under any circumstances, he categorically denies his guilt, even if it is obvious. nine0003

Why are people afraid to make commitments?

Usually the cause of frustration is that people are simply afraid of making a mistake. Situations due to which hypengiophobia may occur may be different, but all causes can be grouped into five large groups: Parents, educators, teachers impose constant prohibitions, the slightest mistake is punished, this accumulates fear. The phrases “you should only do what mom says”, “you are nothing without me”, “you just spoil everything” kill the ability to make decisions on your own in the bud. nine0014

  • Negative attitude and prejudice as a result of a bad experience in adolescence or adulthood. If, as a result of making an unsuccessful decision, the patient has experienced great trouble, he will look at all his future actions from this angle and experience unconscious fear.
  • Perfectionism combined with low self-esteem . A perfectionist is a person who strives for maximum results, because of self-doubt, he is afraid to take on any obligations. The result is an enduring feeling of fear. nine0014

Hypengiophobia can be caused by a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia. People with hebephrenic syndrome often suffer from this phobia.


Agree that every person in his life at least once faced with the fact that his decision led to sad results. Authoritarian parents and illiterate teachers are also not uncommon in our society. However, not everyone suffers from hypengiophobia.

More likely to have a mental disorder in people with a high sensitivity to the assessment of strangers. They are so afraid of condemnation and criticism that if they need to make a decision, their “soul goes to the heels”. nine0003

People with excessive suggestibility are susceptible to this and other social phobias . This personality trait subconsciously pushes a person to unconditionally adhere to the stereotypes imposed by society.

They do not have their own opinion, they do not know how to think critically. If someone at least once said - “what kind of leader are you, you only spoil everything”, hypengiophobia is already in your pocket.

Symptoms of this phobia

Fear of making commitments in a person with hypengiophobia manifests itself as follows:

  • A panic attack occurs at a critical moment. Hypengiophobe begins to breathe heavily, from the outside it seems that he has a pre-infarction state due to stress.
  • There may be a tremor of the limbs, trembling of the voice and chin.
  • Nausea, dizziness, up to fainting.
  • Hysterical crying or laughter.
  • Acute attack of gastrointestinal upset, urge to urinate.

Aggression towards others can be added to the listed symptoms, which require a decision to be made by the hypengiophobe. Such a picture can be observed in a situation where a wife is trying to persuade her husband, a hypengiophobe, to take responsibility both for her life and for the material well-being of the family. nine0003


Hypengiophobia is, in principle, not that difficult to calculate. Usually such people speak quietly, try to be "in the shadows." They find it difficult to express their thoughts aloud. They are lost at moments when they try to impose new responsibilities on him. At work or in the family, hypengiophobes (both men and women) are afraid to take responsibility for themselves, which is why they actively shift it to others, blaming them for failures and failures.

Diagnosis is complicated by the fact that people gradually adapt to the phobia and categorically refuses to admit pathology.

From the outside, it seems that only his relatives suffer, who have to solve not only their own problems, but also a relative of the hypengiophobe (wife, colleagues).

Pathology exhausts the patient and provokes such health problems as stomach ulcers, persistent hypertension, and various somatic diseases. Therefore, it is very important to diagnose the disease correctly and start treatment as early as possible.

How to get rid of fear yourself? nine0041

Before making an important decision, you can build confidence by following the recommendations:

  • Inspire yourself with the attitude that any failure is an invaluable experience that helps you find the right solution faster in the future.
  • Balance your diet and streamline your daily routine. This will create a good basis for a healthy psychological state.
  • When faced with a task, make a decision without delay in order to minimize the period of psychological stress. nine0014
  • Always finish what you start. Nervousness about the decision made increases when the result is delayed.

It is very important to learn techniques to increase self-esteem and reduce anxiety. So you can eliminate the root cause of fear and panic.

When to contact a professional?

In severe cases, a person suffering from hypengiophobia loses the ability to act adequately. At the moment when he needs to make a decision, he can jump out the window in a panic, run out into the street, get hit by a car. If you notice signs of a growing fear of responsibility in yourself or a loved one, do not neglect the services of a professional. nine0003

Self-treatment will only help to stop the pathological condition . A competent specialist will find the cause of the phobia and help the person to change the destructive attitude in life, to stop being afraid.

How to Stop Panic: Therapy Methods

Effective psychotherapy methods that really help to cope with hypengiophobia:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy .

    Technique is considered one of the most productive when it comes to the restoration of personality. nine0003

    The doctor helps the patient look into the depths of consciousness, survive dangerous moments and erase life-destroying emotions from memory.

  • Neurolinguistic Programming Techniques. They will help you manage feelings, behaviors and cope with problems on your own.
  • Group trainings. Show excellent results in hypengiophobia. Participants exchange emotions, work on mistakes. People with low self-esteem gradually go through the stages of socialization. nine0014
  • Hypnotherapy. Affects the subconscious. In a few sessions, a person gets rid of the causes of irrational fear.
  • Psychological modeling - a method when a specialist invites a patient with hypengiophobia to analyze together their own actions and thoughts, the behavior of other people, to make an assessment.

An alternative method of healing for hypengiophobia is energy psychology, including traditional Chinese medicine with effects on acupuncture. nine0003

To improve the quality of life in advanced anxiety and mental states, medication is additionally indicated.


No need to take on a large number of cases at the same time. Force yourself to "small portions" to take responsibility for things that scare. Rational control over actions will significantly reduce the feeling of fear.

In critical situations, imagine that life is a theater, and you are the leading actor. Successes and failures by and large are not so important. What difference does it make, whistles or applause will your game cause? Life will go on, people will be busy with their own affairs, and you with yours. This approach will help reduce the risk of exacerbations of hypengiophobia. nine0003

Consequences and prognosis

Hypengiophobia is a serious mental disorder with dangerous consequences if left untreated.

A person becomes inactive, lethargic. Uncontrolled fear of responsibility causes a strong emotional experience that can lead to a life crisis and disability.

Do not allow the critical development of the disease. Pathology is successfully treated if the problem is taken seriously. Sometimes a person who has suffered from hypengiophobia for decades is helped by 5-10 sessions with a professional and life becomes completely different. nine0003

Video on the topic

Watch a useful video about the fear of making commitments:


Unfortunately, there are many predisposing factors in society for weak-minded, suspicious, sensitive people to develop hypengiophobia. Fear of condemnation from the public contributes to the emergence of pathology . Fear of becoming an outcast pushes a person to a behavior model when there is no need to make commitments. nine0003

Specialists have a rich arsenal of techniques that help the patient to fully recover from hypengiophobia. A person without phobias becomes open to people, lives fully and happier.

Phobias: definition

Two types of phobias

The whole variety of phobias (and there are about five hundred of them) is divided into two types: simple and social. Simple is the fear of certain objects (or animals). Social phobia refers to the fear of getting into certain situations. For example, the fear of the crowd, the fear of being in the presence of other people, the fear of becoming an object of ridicule. nine0003

Symptoms of a phobia

Once in a situation that causes a phobia, a person develops a state of panic. In the future, anticipating the repetition of a similar situation, he automatically feels fear and begins to avoid it. Attacks of fear may be accompanied by disorientation, a feeling of unreality of one's state or external environment. Physical sensations are also possible - dizziness, loss of balance, strong heartbeat, visual, hearing, swallowing and breathing disorders. Less commonly, physical symptoms include nausea, abdominal pain, problems with urination and defecation, muscle tension, trembling, or numbness. nine0003

What is panic?

In a phobic situation, fear grows uncontrollably and intensifies as the danger grows in the imagination. The person focuses more and more on the discomfort caused by the phobic reaction and less and less focused on what can calm him down. There is a conviction that something terrible is about to happen - death, a heart attack, insanity. This is the state of panic. It is so agonizing that the person tries to avoid any stimulus situations, including words, images, and memories that may trigger the phobic reaction. nine0003

How are phobias treated?

The treatment of phobias consists in developing in the person the ability to face and remain in the phobic situation, and in convincing him experientially, not intellectually, that the situation is not really dangerous. With the help of individual, progressively more complex tasks, the patient is taught to respond more strongly to the real calming aspects of the situation and weaker to an imaginary threat.


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