People with a phobia of rejection experience an excessive fear of someone rejecting them in social situations. This can cause significant emotional distress and lead a person to withdraw or act inappropriately to avoid rejection.

A phobia of rejection may interfere with everyday life and negatively affect a person’s relationships, as well as their mental and physical health. Extreme fear can cause emotional distress and, sometimes, physical pain.

This article explains how a rejection phobia may affect everyday life, the causes of this phobia, tips for overcoming the fear, and when to contact a doctor.

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Symptoms of this phobia may include:

  • anxiety about social exclusion
  • expecting or assuming rejection
  • avoidance or withdrawal from social situations
  • feeling a lack of belonging or closeness to others
  • mental health issues, such as depression
  • attempting to control others or social situations
  • increased anger, aggression, or hostility
  • increased jealousy

Social isolation

Fear of rejection may make developing or maintaining social relationships difficult, which can lead to social isolation or loneliness.

Social isolation and loneliness may also have links with various mental and physical health problems, including:

Challenges in romantic relationships

People with an increased fear of rejection may also avoid physical contact with others.

A 2020 study of 121 females examined rejection sensitivity’s effects on physical touch. The study involved participants touching hands with a stranger to cooperate on a task.

People with a high sensitivity to rejection had significantly less physical contact with their partners than those with a lower sensitivity to rejection.

The study also highlights older research that suggests people with increased sensitivity to rejection may experience reduced harmony in their intimate relationships. The study suggested this may occur due to some of the symptoms of a phobia of rejection, such as increased levels of jealousy or hostility.

Some experts suggest people who experience significant rejection from their parents during childhood may later experience a fear of intimacy in romantic relationships, particularly if they perceive any level of rejection from a partner.

Negative bias

People who fear rejection may have a negative interpretation bias, which is a tendency to interpret a neutral situation negatively.

For example, a 2021 study from the American Psychological Association found that people with a fear of rejection and social exclusion identified negative facial reactions in a crowd more quickly than less fearful people.

This suggests a fear of rejection may cause people to be more fearful or distrustful of others than people without this fear.

Compulsive behaviors

According to a 2021 article, people may develop compulsive behaviors to try to manage feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety, or stress.

Compulsive behaviors are repetitive actions people carry out despite their negative consequences. The article suggests there may be a link between fear of rejection and compulsive social media use.

Because people with high levels of social anxiety feel extremely anxious in in-person social situations, they may turn to social media for feelings of greater control and flexibility in interactions, which can lead to compulsive use.

Various factors can contribute to an excessive fear of rejection, including the following:

Social anxiety

People with high levels of social anxiety may feel dread or stress during everyday social activities or situations due to a fear of rejection, judgment, or humiliation.

The cause of social anxiety is not clear, but it may have a genetic link that affects how areas of the brain relating to fear and anxiety function. Stress and environmental factors may also play a part.

Past rejection

Previous rejection may cause people to fear experiencing it again. To protect themselves, they may withdraw and avoid social situations.

Rejection sensitivity

Rejection sensitivity is a personality trait that may cause a person to fear social exclusion and rejection. An affected person may expect and perceive rejection more readily and anxiously than others and overreact to it.

People may develop this trait due to experiences of rejection in early life.

As a result, a person may feel a lack of belonging and withdraw from social situations. They may also attempt to gain control in social situations and interact inappropriately with others.

Rejection sensitivity may have links with certain mental health issues, including:

  • depression
  • anger and aggression
  • interpersonal issues

Treatments for social anxiety may help reduce the fear of rejection or judgment from others.


Psychotherapy is a key treatment and may include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT can help people adjust unhelpful thinking patterns and learn new ways to react or behave in situations, including improved social skills and reduced fear.
  • Exposure therapy: During exposure therapy, people gradually confront their fears to help them return to activities they have been avoiding. People may learn relaxation techniques and strategies to help reduce anxiety.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT): ACT uses goal setting and mindfulness to help reduce feelings of fear, discomfort, and anxiety.

Alongside psychotherapy, medications may help reduce feelings of fear and anxiety, as well as any mental health issues people experience, such as depression.


Medications may include:

Read an expert’s advice about how to overcome a fear of rejection.

Feeling nervous about rejection does not necessarily indicate a phobia, particularly when rejection is a realistic possibility, such as in a job interview.

However, a person may wish to contact a doctor or a mental health professional if a fear of rejection is interfering with their everyday life, leading to:

  • relationship issues
  • avoidance of social situations
  • mental or physical health issues
  • compulsive coping mechanisms, including social media use

If people feel in severe distress, they can contact a helpline such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or call 988 for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects if it’s safe to do so.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

Was this helpful?

A fear of rejection may negatively affect a person’s life in various ways. It may prevent them from forming close connections with others, having healthy relationships, or going for opportunities they want.

People may withdraw from social situations to try to protect themselves from pain, numb with compulsive behaviors, or respond to others with anger, jealousy, or hostility.

If a fear of rejection negatively affects a person’s everyday life, they can speak with a healthcare professional about treatment options. Methods such as psychotherapy can help people adjust thought patterns, reduce fear, and feel better.