We all want to feel loved and desired, to experience all the delightful details of physical love. There’s the delicious anticipation, the electric touch, the joy of giving, the freedom of spontaneity, the eroticism of a shared fantasy — and yes, sometimes, the thrill of the taboo.

It’s a natural human drive. Sex and sensuality create a sense of intimacy with your partner that nothing else can. It’s your unique and secret bond. And of course it’s also a lot of fun!

Which is why it’s so upsetting when fear gets in the way. It’s like some of the colour has been drained out of the world, some of the joy of life stolen from you. It can make you feel like just the husk of the self you wish you could allow yourself to be, the self you wish you could share with your partner.

Instead, people with sexual phobias can find themselves dreading their partner’s touch, feeling guilty and inadequate, maybe even inventing grievances and conflicts to disguise or rationalise your avoidance of sexual intimacy. Meanwhile, our hyper-sexualised culture and media serve as a constant reminder of what they’re missing out on.

Unresolved sexual phobias can cause great damage to relationships and self esteem, and it’s one of the hardest issues to talk about.

Do I have a sexual phobia?

Most people are a little inhibited and self-conscious when it comes to sex. But if the prospect of intimacy or intercourse makes you feel seriously anxious or panicky, then you may have a phobia of sex.

The scientific name of this condition is ‘genophobia’, ‘coitophobia’ or ‘erotophobia’. This anxiety disorder is often the result of something traumatic in the sufferer’s past — something that led to a subconscious fear of intimacy or losing control, an aversion to being touched, body image issues or low self-esteem. Sexual phobias affect how you see your relationship, and how you see yourself and your partner within that relationship. For example, you may have an unconscious wish to withhold enjoyment from yourself or your partner (or both) — even if your conscious mind wants anything but that.

Alternatively, your fear might be the result of performance anxiety, whether due to previous problems or other reasons. In either case, getting help from a professional therapist to assess the problem can often be the most effective first step in addressing it.

NOTE: Many people assume their fear was caused by some forgotten or repressed sexual abuse, but that’s not always the case. It might, for instance, simply be the result of encountering sexuality too early — either directly or vicariously. This can leave a mark, even if the emotional response isn’t registered at the time. It’s common for the unconscious mind to assign retroactive meaning to the encounter years later.

Whatever the cause, the important thing to remember is that you’re not alone, and you don’t have to put up with your fear for the rest of your life.

What do I actually have to do?

While there’s no ‘quick fix’ for any psychological issue, you won’t usually have to do any difficult, exhausting mental exercises or ‘homework’ as part of treatment at Bayside. Our therapies mostly involve exploring and sharing your feelings, childhood memories, experiences, dreams and fantasies.

Typically, though:

  • Hypnotherapy involves safely entering a relaxed trance and challenging embedded, unconscious beliefs and inhibitions. (Note that it’s not a quick fix. Hypnotherapy works best when combined with other methods, such as counselling.)
  • Counselling is a short-term talk therapy where you talk to your therapist about things you’re consciously aware of, and they suggest strategies to endeavour to help relieve your symptoms. (You can do this online if you’re not located near us, or if you’re not comfortable talking in-clinic.)

Psychotherapy is a longer-form treatment which involves speaking in great depth about your early childhood memories, dreams, daydreams and sexual fantasies. It’s all about exploring your deep-seated, unconscious desires and modes of enjoyment.

Depending on your unique situation and personal preferences, we may also use Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Art Therapy, Person Centred, Psychotherapy, Counselling, Couples Counselling and Psychoanalysis. We have qualified practitioners from all those disciplines.

Who would I be working with?

We have six trained therapists comprising counsellors, hypnotherapists and psychoanalysts on staff here at Bayside Psychotherapy. Until we know more about you and your situation, we can’t say exactly who you’d be working with. But rest assured, they’re all qualified, highly experienced professionals — and compassionate, understanding people. We operate in a completely non-judgemental environment.

What if I’m uncomfortable talking about this stuff?

Many people are uncomfortable talking about sex. Particularly people with sexual phobias. That’s a completely natural feeling. Our team is practiced in creating a safe, relaxing space to make it easier for clients to open up. You just have to take it one step at a time. Your first step would be some talk therapy, where we identify which initial treatment would be most effective for your particular situation.

Hypnotherapy is often used to ease into the treatment process, to be followed by more intensive counselling sessions. This is a very easy and non-confrontational way to start examining your drivers. In fact, you can get started at home by yourself, with the help of our sexual phobia hypnotherapy audio download. We also offer both in-clinic and online counselling and hypnotherapy, so you can choose whichever mode is more comfortable for you.

What’s the first step?

You’ve already taken step one, which is reading this page. Step two is to call and make an appointment to commence therapy. Everyone’s situation is different, so your treatment will be unique to you.

Contact us now

To enquire, Call (03) 9557 9113 or email us now. Anything you share with us is completely confidential, and there’s absolutely no obligation.

Or, if you are ready to schedule your initial session, you can book an appointment by using our online booking form for online appointments. Or, if you prefer, you can book an in-clinic session.

Frequently Asked Questions

Like many phobias, genophobia (or sex phobia) is most likely the cause of severe trauma. The two most common triggers for sex phobia are rape and molestation. Still, other factors such as religious and cultural upbringing, insecurities, body image issues and medical concerns may also be triggers. Additionally, genophobia sometimes occurs without any causes and could be a manifestation of a deeper root cause. 

Many people assume their fear was caused by some forgotten or repressed sexual abuse, but that’s not always the case. It might, for instance, simply be the result of encountering sexuality too early — either directly or vicariously. This can leave a mark, even if the emotional response isn’t registered at the time. It’s common for the unconscious mind to assign retroactive meaning to the encounter years later.

Whatever the cause, the important thing to remember is that you’re not alone, and you don’t have to put up with your fear for the rest of your life.

Treatment for sexual phobia will depend on the complexity of the case and your personal preferences but usually involves hypnotherapy, counselling or psychotherapy.

At Bayside, we have qualified, highly skilled practitioners in all of these disciplines. Our goal is to uncover the deep-seated, unconscious desires and conflicts that have influenced your view of sexual relations — the meanings you ascribe to sexuality, and the roles you see yourself and your partner playing. Then we work with you on strategies to resolve those unconscious conflicts so that you may be able to move forward with confidence.

In other words, we endeavour to treat the cause, not just the symptoms. We don’t generally treat sexual phobia with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), for example, because it focuses on behaviour and conscious thought, which are both just symptoms of the underlying problem.

Everyone’s case is different. The causes and severity of your sexual phobia are unique to you, so your treatment and timeframe will be unique to you too. Some people may report feeling improvement after just a few weeks, others after a few months — and some people find they benefit from years of therapy.

But the commitment is worth it. You’ll be working towards a future where you have the ability to feel comfortable with your sexuality, and relax with your partner, or partners, and let yourself enjoy sex, sensuality and everything surrounding it.

Note Whilst we will do our best to assist you, we rely upon your commitment to and participation in the treatment process to optimise results. Although some of our therapists work with people presenting with this condition, no guarantees of any outcomes can be made.

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03 9557 9113
Reception phone hours
8:30am – 5:30am
Monday – Friday
(closed on public holidays)

Choose your own date and time for an online or in-clinic session
Therapist Hours

  • Monday 8:00am to 8:00pm
  • Tuesday 8:30am to 8:00pm
  • Wednesday 8:30am to 8:00pm
  • Thursday 8:30am to 8:00pm
  • Friday 8:30am to 8:00pm
  • Saturday 8:00am to 6:00pm
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Therapists who do online

  • Adam Szmerling
  • Carolina Selvarajoo
  • Humaira Ansari
  • Kelli Tranter
  • Lawrence Akers
  • Natalie Szmerling

Therapists who do in-clinic

  • Adam Szmerling
  • Natalie Szmerling