anxiety, depression, emotional abuse, life, mental abuse, mental health, mental illness, narcissistic abuse

Emotophobia – the Fear of Strong Negative Emotions

Emotophobia is the fear of unpleasant emotions, not to be confused with emetophobia, the fear of vomiting.

There is little online about emotophobia.

The few articles I found offered the suggestion to “stop treating negative emotions as if they are your enemies and can harm you.”

This is somewhat condescending and implies that emotions themselves cannot harm you.

The person offering this advice clearly has never been in a situation where showing negative emotions could harm them.

So, they think it is rather ridiculous that someone would associate their negative emotions with danger.

The problem with this thinking is that there are situations where someone’s emotions can cause them harm.

This advise shows a complete misunderstanding of emotophobia and its root causes.

People with emotophobia are not “treating” emotions as if they are the enemy.

For people that have emotophobia, emotions were the enemy and they were followed by consequences.

People that grew up in mentally abusive childhoods were not permitted to have emotions like other people are.

The expression of emotion, which represents being an individual, is often punished by abusive parents.

Even children who were not physically abused, could have had their right to individual ideas and feelings violated.

Narcissistic parents and other overbearing, maniplulative parents do not want their children to develop independent thoughts and ideas.

They do not want their children thinking in terms of their own needs at all. When their children expressed feelings, the parents retaliated.

Punishments from the silent treatment to aggressive verbal abuse of the child are used.

Physical consequences may also follow as a matter of course, when a child showed anything resembling disobedience, including not feeling what they were told to feel.

These mentally abusive parents, want the focus on themselves and their needs. They demand for the child to cater to their ever changing desires and demands.

In order to survive in this type of environment, the child must learn to constantly read the parent’s body language and tone of voice.

They must anticipate the desires and moods of the parent. If they fail to do so, it is met with negative consequences.

If the child expresses disagreement, or unhappiness with the parent, they will likely incur the anger and wrath of the parent.

Even a facial expression of disagreement with the parent can bring out their anger.

For their own protection, these children and teenagers learn to disguise their feelings and push them down.

They do not want the parent to see their feelings because it will be used against them.

If you grew up in this type of environment, then feeling negative emotions was the enemy. It is not something we have suddenly developed an irrational fear of as adults.

This environment causes C-PTSD, which is Complex Post Traumatic Stess Disorder, in many people. This is carried over into adulthood.

So, the advice to “stop treating emotions as if they were the enemy” and to tell people that feeling emotions is safe, does not make sense to someone with C-PTSD from childhood mental abuse.

Adults can also develop emotophobia from ongoing abusive relationships with a partner. Women become afraid to disagree with their partner because they fear his anger.

Abusive people do not tolerate independence from their partner in the way of them expressing feelings like sadness and anger.

Again, the brain rewires the neural connections to avoid showing negative feelings. This is a necessary survival tactic at the time.

It is not easily undone. The brain considers it necessary in order to protect the safety of the person.

It takes years to develop this survival tactic and to detach from and avoid negative emotions. The brain becomes wired to discourage entering into situations that may cause negative emotions.

To undo what was a learned survival skill takes a lot of work in re-wiring the brain.

Telling someone “emotions are your friends” does not work, especially without any idea why the person feels such anxiety about emotions like anger and sadness.

The only people who really understand what it feels like to have severe anxiety about showing anger, and sadness to others are those of us that are carrying the C-PTSD that causes it.

This is not a simple problem to just fix. Minimizing the problem and misunderstanding the root causes just makes those of us suffering from emotophobia feel worse.

Treatment for emotophobia would have to begin with drudging up past trauma in a safe environment. It has to be done in small doses that the person can handle.

Each individual person that suffers from this phobia has a unique past and so their treatment would be individual.

28 thoughts on “Emotophobia – the Fear of Strong Negative Emotions”

    1. I feel that I may have developed this with my ex to some extent, a relationship I was in for 4 yrs. He took various ‘things’ to help him with his anger but in the end he would get angry over things I didn’t know were going on… it was kind of scary but eventually over time I think I learned to just avoid the topics.


      1. I understand about learning to avoid topics so as not to incur their rage. They cause you to walk on egg shells. It is intentional on their part to control you.

        Once you realize they are doing these things intentionally you have a new perspective about it.

        I have coaching times available if you decide to get some coaching or NLP for healing from abuse.
        You can check out the web site at


  1. This is a very helpful and interesting post. While I don’t suffer from that awful emotophobia, I do relate to the traumatic causes and supressed childhood emotions. IME emotions ARE the enemy at times and they DO cause harm, whether we like to admit it or not. It’s like telling a victim of violent crime, “Don’t worry about getting attacked, it might never happen.” Well, hellooo, it already did happen so that rationale just doesn’t work. I would tend to agree that reaching the root cause is the start of healing


    1. Thank you. Those are excellent points. The people that are trying to coach people who they do not understand the background of, do not get it.
      Fear of something which did happen is different than someone just having an irrational fear.
      And actually I am not sure about irrational fears at all.
      All phobias are probably related to some experience or at the least a fear of lack of control. The fear of lack of control must be in response to some traumatic experience.
      Thank you for taking the time to comment.
      Annie ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I have trouble feeling anger even when I should.
      I fear angry voices, especially male voices.
      I hate feeling sad, I hate sad movies. I have an irrational fear that once I start to feel very sad, it will never go away.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi, thanks for sharing. When I was with my ex I feared his angry voice too. My current BF raises his voice sometimes but it’s nowhere nearly at the same level. There is something in that angry person that makes them frightening to be around; it’s not just the voice. I noticed it’s also the way they talk, eye contact (always a lack of eye contact), etc…


  2. I hate angry voices too..Even though I have never been physically abused, when my husband gets angry I get so scared I think he is going to hit me..He would never do such a thing and I know this, but my body reacts out of fear.I know it’s my Dad’s voice coming back to haunt me..I also hate being around negativity and I suck other people’s emotions up like a sponge!


    1. Omg girl, you sound like me when I was with my ex.. I believe I was living out some issues with my biological dad (who was abusive to my mom). I was afraid even though he didn’t hit me.. I thought things were ‘OK.’ I thought we were ‘fine.’ The anger sometimes even made me feel like he was in control and could ‘take care’ of a situation if I couldn’t. I had the blessing of an angel when I started to emotionally disengage from him (we were engaged) and met someone else. I left him. I am sorry to hear about your husband… I wish that you had not gotten married. The negativity, the anger, it reminds me so much of my ex. And when I broke up with him, he was FURIOUS and DEPRESSED and even suicidal!! My dad (my stepdad, not the biological dad) is a good man, supportive, and told me to ask him what method he will use on himself! LOL. He was absolutely right!!


      1. Living with narcissistic abuse can make you depressed and even suicidal. I believe that many suicides can be attributed to emotional and psychological abuse.

        One of the reasons people get so depressed is that others do not believe them about what is happening. Narcissists come off saintly in front of others and make you look like the abusive one or the mentally ill person.

        Thank you for sharing. I am glad I was married because I got to have my daughters. That was the good thing that came out of it. But the family is very narcissistic and controlling.

        Annie – coaching to overcome narcissistic abuse


  3. What a great post. You hit the nail on the head. In fact, my head was nodding right along as I read every paragraph.

    I was never permitted to have negative emotions as a child, or even as an adult. The result is that even now, if someone says something rude or abusive, I “bite my tongue” until it bleeds.

    I’m even super sensitive to my therapist, and if she says something I don’t agree with, I usually don’t “talk back” to her (“no backtalk, young lady! Leftovers.) In fact, she said something months ago that she probably thought was totally benign, but it triggered me to the point where I still think about it bitterly…But I’m afraid to bring it up, because my DNA says I will be punished for it somehow. That’s not even rational, but C-PTSD is like gene modification, and “thinking lovely thoughts” is not going to get rid of it.

    Thank you for opening this incredibly important topic. You’ve helped me by affirming that I’m not the only one who suffers from this form of ingrained psychological abuse.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I grew up in a family in which you were punished for experiencing any kind of negative emotion such as sadness, anger, etc.- even if the feeling was a legitimate response to something that occurred. For example, in grade school, if I came home upset after being bullied at school I was told to shut up and dry up the tears and if I didn’t, I was usually belted. I remember when I was 4 and I came out of sunday school at church one day crying(not loudly but softly sobbing because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself) and my dad, after seeing my tear-stained face, whispered in my ear and demanded that I dry up my tears, put a smile on my face or else. Since I couldn’t do all that on cue, he took me out of church and drove me to my grandparent’s house around the corner and belted me with a yardstick. In high school, I came home one night in tears after finding out my boyfriend had dumped me for another girl in a very cruel manner and was told if I didn’t cheer up and stop crying I would be grounded for a month. All of these were age-appropriate responses to legitimate hurts and yet I was punished for them instead of comforted.

    My parents put me into therapy in my late teens along with several hospitalizations to treat me because “I was too emotional” and therefore something was wrong with me(according to them). Emotions were horrible things that needed to be stamped out and if you weren’t able to do that and be a cheery, chirpy, “I’m fine” Stepford daughter 24 hours a day then there was something seriously wrong with you. I remember one day they presented my then psychiatrist with this ridicuculous 10-page “contract” they wanted him to review before getting me to sign regarding how I was to conduct myself from that day forward- things on there no normal young adult could ever live up to. Something that was designed to fail. If I could not follow those impossible rules, they told me they were seriously thinking about legally cutting ties with me and disinheriting me. They were so sure that the doctor was going to back them up and pat them on the back and were horrified when he tossed the papers aside and told them they needed psychiatric care themselves. I’d like to add, that during those years I was never a “bad” kid. I rarely ever partied, didn’t abuse drugs, and rarely ever went out. I was very much a loner who stayed out of trouble. It’s no wonder I developed severe panic disorder as a young adult.

    Several years later, I had been diagnosed with having PTSD after a sexual assault back in 2004. I had a rough 2 years after that and my panic attacks returned out-of-control during that time. I was living with my grandmother then and I remember driving to work one morning when I began to develop a severe panic episode in the car. I just happened to be driving by my parents house when it happened. I was so panicked I started hyperventilating. I decided to pull over at their house instead of being on the road because I felt it would be safer. I went in the house, ran to the bathroom and threw up. When I went into the living room and sat down on the couch to catch my breath, they demanded I leave immediately or else. I broke down and started crying and asked them to give me a few minutes to calm down before I left but they still demanded I leave which upset me even more. They then called the sheriff’s department and had 2 deputies come over to talk “some sense” into me. After that episode, they held that over my head and said if I bothered them with anymore panic attacks they would have me arrested. Mind you I was never threatening them in any way-I was just having a panic episode and no aggression was ever directed towards them.

    I’m sorry for the long post. Needed to vent.

    I’m now seeing a wonderful therapist who is very kind and patient with me. One of the things he told me he observed about me was that when I’m relating to him something in my life and how I reacted to it, that I had a habit of immediately apologizing for having that reaction. He told me that many of these emotions and feelings I was having were appropriate to the events that occurred. Wow! Nobody ever told me that before. He has taught me how to differentiate between appropriate emotional responses to life situations vs. unhealthy emotional responses and that not all emotions are bad.

    I was afraid that if I opened up to the therapist about these things he would abandon me. I’ve grown up equating showing emotions with being abandoned and rejected as a possible consequence. Slowly but surely I’m learning how to change all of that and am getting better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. Your childhood and teenagehood were extremely abusive. It is hard to know we are being abused when that is the only frame of reference we have growing up.

      Your counselor is right that normal humam emotions arise from corresponding situations.

      Narcissistic parents see your emotions as something they have a right to control and manipulatate. Narcissists see their children as their property…like an appliance that should behave the way it is “supposed to.”

      I am glad you are in treatment that is sympathetic about narcissism and believes you when you describe what happened. It is not easy to find someone who believes these kinds of stories, because unless someone has gone through it, they have trouble believing that people can treat their “loved ones” this way.



  5. Stacey, thank you for your insightful story, it helped me a lot to understanding what EMOTOPHOBIA is and how narcisstic parents use this ‘choice of weapon’ to stop their children from becoming good functioning adults in the future. I’m slowly learning how not expressing your feeling can have on you, both physically and emotionally. I too have some healing to do. I understand the long road to recovery is like. It’s like starting ALL OVER again, redo your WHOLE life again, the correct way.
    Once again thank you for sharing your story – I wish you all the best in your recovery, and may it be speedy.


  6. So recently I started seeing this psychologist at my school. She only offers 5 free conversations, so everything feels a little rushed, but within an hour I think she might’ve come to an interesting conclusion.

    I’m extremely uncomfortable with negative emotions.

    She didn’t mention any phobias or specific conditions, which would’ve been a little early as well, but I’ve never thought of my problems in that direction before. Which brought me to the internet and to here, because I was curious. Your post made an awful lot of sense to me. Unfortunately.

    I’m 20 years old and I think my so called C-PTSD has pushed me into forced asexuality, of a sort. I know it sounds strange, but in my head it makes sense.

    I’ve been mentally and emotionally “abused” or “brainwashed” as I like to call it by my parents always. I’ve been emotionally abused by my peers/classmates since I can remember, always the weird one.

    I soak up emotions very well and I’m never quite sure what I’m feeling about certain things, often contradictory.

    The point of the matter is, that negative emotions have made me so that I become socially exhausted pretty fast, especially if I’m not in a very good environment. This means that whenever I spend to much time with ANYBODY, family, friends or possible love interest, after a while, I just want to be alone. Negative emotions doesn’t even need to be present in the encounters. I used to hate being alone, but I no longer am. I thrive being alone 80% of the time.

    I no longer find other people attractive, because usually new people means new emotions and new emotions is a great possibility for negative emotions, because I’m used to being labeled weird pretty fast. Most people find weirdness unattractive, my kind of weirdness only perhaps.

    But I digress. I don’t get sexually attracted to people, because I don’t want to be close to them anymore. I get tired. The thought of the aftermath of sex or any sort of serious relationship exhausts me and makes me mildly terrified, because I know I’m unable to deal with it correctly. It took me 1,5 years to break up with my last boyfriend, which means communication in general with love interests is a no-go for me. I just can’t. I was never taught to say “I love you”, or give random compliments or anything of the like.

    I was taught to manipulate. To undervalue lesser privileged people. To distrust the world and everybody in it. To be paranoid and only think about myself. To read and analyze people and situations. To be control of the situation and work towards the best posssible outcome. To lie, to exploit and to succeed no matter the circumstances.

    My own thoughts and these thoughts clash so much in my mind that I never quite know what my real opinion is..

    I thought I’d share this with you, because the consequences of my emotional trauma has reached far, and I’ve just realized now.. that the root of my problem is that I can’t deal with general negativity.

    I’m still not sure if I can be helped past this, or if I have to accept my lot in life. Sometimes, I feel like my head made everything up and my problems are hallucinations. I am so tired most of the time.



    1. People who have not been through the gaslighting and mental abuse that narcissists and psychopaths use to brainwash you do not understand what the effects are like on the victim

      C-PTSD from ongoing abuse results in all the issues you have described here.

      If you are interested in doing a coaching session with me, you can take a look at the gentlekindness coaching web site and contact me thtough the site.

      For videos that might be helpful to you , there are many topics covered at my YouTube channel Annie Mimi Hall YouTube channel.

      Annie – gentlekindness coaching


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