Fear Of Relatives

Some people have close-knit families where everyone seems to get along well. They gather strength from one another and meet at reunions, weddings, and other family events. For others, family relationships are a struggle they would rather avoid. They dread seeing their relatives and interacting with them. If you also share these feelings, you may suffer from the fear of relatives. This phobia is known as syngenesophobia.

Why Do People Fear Relatives?

The fear of relatives can stem from troubled relationships over the long term. Previous difficulties with family members can create an atmosphere of tension and resentment.

Some people with syngenesophobia feel that they relinquish their privacy when relatives are around. They may regress, as repressed or negative memories from childhood become impossible to block out.

Other Factors

Teenage rebellion often manifests itself as syngenesophobia. It is natural for teens to develop an identity of their own during the years from 13 to 19, and they often require space to do so.

Pulling away from family members during this period is quite common. Teens dread going to the mall or public places with parents, or attending family events they perceive as dull and pointless. In time, most teens outgrow the fear of relatives, but in some cases, it can continue in the adult years.

Some families have skeletons in their closet. There may be legitimate reasons for some people with this phobia to grow anxious and avoidant where relatives are concerned.

For example, childhood sexual abuse or psychological abuse can leave lasting scars on people once they are fully grown. If a family member has mistreated a child, they will not be likely to forget. They may avoid their entire family rather than deal with the traumatic flashbacks and pain that memories bring.

Others develop the fear of relatives because they have something to hide. They may have issues with substance abuse, alcoholism, or criminal activity. By distancing themselves from their families, they minimize the chances of their misdeeds or addictions being discovered.

Often, on TV programs like Intervention, the person with problems will try to avoid their family whenever possible. They develop syngenesophobia because their family represents a moral code and standard of behavior they can’t adhere to. Yet their relatives are often the only ones left who still care about their problems.

Mothers-In-Law Can Be A Trigger

Many women develop this phobia because they cannot stand being around their husband’s mother. The relationship with a wife and her mother-in-law is often complicated and deeply unsatisfying. Conflict with a mother-in-law is one of the biggest triggers for syngenesophobia.

Women all over the world meet on Internet message boards to complain about the treatment they get from their mothers-in-law and their husband’s family. They report snide, cruel treatment that their husbands tend to brush off as inconsequential.

Some women decide to sever all ties with their husband’s family as a result, which often causes difficulties in the marriage. Women feel resentful of the problems their mothers-in-law have introduced into their lives. Some common terms used on message boards to describe mothers-in-law are: domineering, childish, rude, psycho, etc.

The fear of relatives usually has some rational basis, but the phobia worsens and causes harm to the person. They may become paranoid about interaction with relatives, well beyond what is logical. When this happens, they are harming themselves by depriving themselves of warm, natural family bonds. They may feel lonely, depressed, and angry.


The symptoms of fear of relatives are avoidance, anxiety, physical ailments such as headaches and sick stomach, and persistent irritation or even fear.


Treatment of syngenesophobia should include psychotherapy to get at the root of past worries and memories. It may include a course of anti-depressants.

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