Soceraphobia (Fear of Parents-in-law): Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Most people usually aspire to get married, settle down, probably have kids, and grow old with the person they have chosen to love and be with.

These are all wonderful ideas until you think of certain factors that have to be involved in getting married. One of such factors is meeting with the parents.

As much as you want to get married(or you are already married), you can agree that getting to meet with the parents can be a little scary, and frankly, your fear might have a good reason.

However, if your fear of meeting the parents of your fiance(e) starts to surpass the norm, you probably are already experiencing soceraphobia. Soceraphobia, in simple terms, refers to the irrational fear of your parents-in-law.

A person who suffers from this fear will most likely start experiencing severe anxieties, just merely thinking or talking about their parents-in-law. Some people might begin to experience full-blown panic attacks when they begin to think of having to meet them physically.

If you notice that your partner starts having certain signs such as rapid breathing, increased heartbeats, increased pulse rates, muscle tension, an increase in blood pressure, tremors and trembling, increase sweat output, and so on, then your partner may be having a panic attack.

If your partner is experiencing panic attacks, it may not be severe at first; however, there are tendencies that if he/she isn’t properly attended to, it may lead to life-threatening conditions.

Most people who have one phobia or another try to avoid their fears at all costs. Likewise, people with soceraphobia tend to try to avoid their parents-in-law at all costs.

Some people who may not know how to handle themselves around their partner’s family tend to carry their avoidance to the extreme by making sure that they are not exposed or seen by their parents-in-law.

In some cases, some people may begin to hurt themselves, hide, or do other worse things to avoid being seen by their partner’s parents no matter how much their partner wants them to.

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Usually, people who have soceraphobia often think less of themselves and worry too much. Their irrational low thinking of themselves and their capabilities, coupled with emotional worries, usually results in them having this intense anxiety and mental anguish.

Although people with soceraphobia often avoid their fear, hoping that one day, their fear will disappear or worse, their parents-in-law are no longer available to be seen; the sad reality is that this is never the case.

People with specific phobias who always try to avoid their fear, thinking their avoidance will lead to the disappearance of their phobia, end up finding out that the more they avoid it, the bigger their fear and the more intense the next episode of their anxiety will be.

People dealing with soceraphobia usually try to justify their irrational fears, end up always avoiding it, and in the long run, may end up realizing that their symptoms only worsen.

Causes of Soceraphobia

Just like any other specific phobia, the exact causes of Soceraphobia are unknown. However, experts seem to think that environmental and genetic factors often play a role in its development.

Unlike most specific phobias that start in childhood and then become full-blown as they become adults, Soceraphobia may not be developed until the patient becomes an adult. The contributing factors of Soceraphobia include:

1. Genetics

If you have a family history of developing certain mental illnesses example, schizophrenia or certain anxiety disorders such as Soceraphobia and any other specific phobia, then your chances of developing soceraphobia are increased significantly.

However, it is important to note that if any member of your family had previously dealt with any anxiety disorder such as soceraphobia, it doesn’t mean that you will necessarily develop soceraphobia.

It only means that your chances of developing any specific phobia(including that which your family member had or any other phobia) are increased.

Hence, if your family had thanatophobia (which is the fear of death), you may end up developing soceraphobia or any other different type of phobia that there is. In the case of Soceraphobia, genetics may be said to be the higher factor at play here.

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2. Environment

On a lesser scale, the environment might be said to be a contributing factor leading to the development of soceraphobia.

If a child has experienced a traumatic event of a parent-in-law having disputes and arguments with someone close to the child, the child might develop soceraphobia.

Also, children who are allowed free reign to watch whatever they like may end up always seeing movies that portray in-laws to be in the bad light and, as such, may develop this phobia.

3. Brain Chemistry

Some experts believe that when you alter the chemical functions of the brain or you cause certain chemical imbalances in the brain, it can result in the development of soceraphobia.

Symptoms of Soceraphobia

Soceraphobia Fear of Parents-in-law

Just like any other phobia that is known to occur to man, one of the most prominent symptoms of soceraphobia is the increased level of anxiety that comes along with it.

Some people’s levels of anxiety might be so extreme that it may result in full-blown panic attacks. People who suffer from soceraphobia may, in some cases, when they are unable to control their anxiety require to be hospitalized.

However, hospitalization, for some, may not be needed in some cases. Some of the typical symptoms you might experience when you have Soceraphobia can be classified into groups namely;

1. Physical symptoms

As said earlier, the first major sign you will notice in a person suffering from soceraphobia is panic attacks. The patient will keep suffering from anxieties, especially when it is time for him or her to meet the parents-in-law.

Any mention of them or having to meet with them will cause the patient to start trembling, experiencing tremors, sweating, inability to speak coherently, chills, flushes, breathing problems, and so on.

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In some extreme cases, the patient may begin to experience dizziness, fainting, choking, tachycardia, chest tightness, disorientation, uncontrollable bowel movements, the ringing of the ears, and so on.

2. Psychological symptoms

Mostly, these symptoms are a result of a figment of the person’s imagination. If you have soceraphobia, you may likely see things that are not there.

According to research, people who suffer from soceraphobia mostly think their parents-in-law have some sort of diabolical plans towards them, and this may translate to the kind of psychological symptoms they may have.

3. Behavioral symptoms

These symptoms are often seen in the behavior of a person who has soceraphobia. Mostly, the patient will tend to avoid parties, scenes, and places that their parents-in-law may be in.

Generally, they will never go to the house of their partner’s families no matter how much their partners ask.

Diagnosis

For your doctor to appropriately diagnose you of having soceraphobia, after conducting physical examinations on you to rule out there is no underlying condition, then he/she will ask you a series of questions such as when you started experiencing the symptoms, the sort of symptoms that you are experiencing and other questions.

After an appropriate diagnosis, he or she will recommend you to go to meet a therapist for treatment.

Treatment

We have already established that there is no specific cause for soceraphobia, and as such, there are no specific treatments.

However, over the year, many forms of treatments have been seen to help improve many of the symptoms that you may feel. Some of these treatments include:

1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy(CBT)

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, often called CBT, is a form of treatment that mostly aims to help people who have anxiety disorders such as Obsessive-Compulsive disorders, as well as other specific phobias such as soceraphobia.

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CBT seeks to determine why the patients behave the way they do, how they think, feel, and react the way they do to their fears.

Most people with specific phobias often don’t understand why they react the way they do when they are confronted with their fears and, as such, most often battle with conflicting emotions and feelings.

Hence, your therapist will use CBT to make you understand your fears and, as such, teach you to think deeply when faced with their fears.

2. Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy is one of the most common types of treatments that therapists often use to help people dealing with specific phobias. Exposure therapy is often done by exposing the patient to their fears in a controlled manner over a given period.

For someone who is suffering from soceraphobia, your therapist may begin by gradually introducing you to the idea of meeting your parents-in-law and, after seeing how you react, may continue by showing you their pictures and eventually, after a period, allow you to meet them physically.

This process is done gradually in order to get their patients comfortable with their fears by repeatedly exposing them to it.

Generally, it is believed that once you are exposed to your fears, time, and time again, your brain gradually gets used to the fact your fear was actually nothing, and that helps you to overcome it.

3. The use of medications

Depending on how severe your anxiety is, your doctor may prescribe the use of certain drugs to help you relieve your symptoms. Your doctor may ask you to use drugs such as antidepressants, and anti-anxiety meds will help you deal better with your symptoms.

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Deborah Akinola
Wirter, poet and public speaker

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