Have you ever woken up after having a wild night out with friends, and before you can even get the chance to go over last night’s events, you suddenly feel afraid, alone, scared, and angry? You suddenly start feeling like everyone is gone, and you are suddenly, alone?
Suddenly, it feels like it doesn’t matter that you just had a beautiful evening with your friends or that you have great people in your life; all that comes to your mind is how alone and scared you are? If this is what you are feeling, have felt or feel on a constant basis, then you are experiencing what is known as autophobia.
Autophobia, in simple terms, means the fear of being alone. Autophobia can also be referred to as monophobia. Autophobia is an anxiety disorder that is often triggered when you are alone or have the thought of being alone.
It is one of the many specific phobias that we have and guess what, you are not the only person that feels like this. Autophobia is a pretty common disorder that psychologists deal with.
Just like most anxiety disorders, autophobia can result in you experiencing certain physical and psychological symptoms. If left untreated, this disorder can cause distress and leave negative footprints and impacts on the life of the patient.
One of the keys to treating autophobia as well as helping those who are experiencing it is to know and understand this disorder.
This article will help you understand what you are dealing with, the key signs and symptoms that you will experience, how to manage your condition, and the kind of treatments available for you to use. So let’s dive right in, shall we?
What is Autophobia?
As earlier stated, autophobia (also known as monophobia, isolophobia, or eremolophobia) is the intense irrational fear of being left alone, being in isolation, or being ignored.
According to research, although most people experience this fear when they are alone, in some specific cases, some people don’t even need to be left alone before they start having panic attacks.
The thought or the mere mention of being alone scares them more than anything, and once they start having these thoughts, they can begin to panic. This phobia is often called a specific phobia.
Specific phobias are those type of phobias or anxiety disorders that involves the irrational, excessive, and persistent fear of a particular situation, object, or condition even though it is in a perfect state.
Most people who have specific phobias end up avoiding the situations or the things they are afraid of. In cases beyond their control (i.e., in conditions in which they can’t avoid their fear), they end up experiencing intense anxiety, which can lead to full-blown panic attacks.
For people who may have autophobia, the thought of spending time alone, sitting alone, sleeping alone, or generally just being isolated can force them to experience panic attacks.
The term autophobia comes from two words; auto (meaning self or alone) and phobia(meaning fear). Going by the literal sense of the word, autophobia means the fear of self; that is when people are afraid of themselves.
However, in the medical aspect, this is not what this condition refers to. Autophobia is a mental condition that is resultant from the fear of spending time alone.
Is there a difference between Autophobia and Loneliness?
Yes, autophobia and loneliness are absolutely two different conditions.
People can be said to be lonely or experience loneliness when they lack social interaction, or they don’t have enough meaningful relationships. It is possible for people who experience loneliness to be in a room full of people but yet, feel so alone and lonely.
Some people end up feeling sad and unhappy because they are lonely. Their feelings are completely rational and very different from what people who have autophobia will feel.
On the other hand, autophobia is the irrational sense and feeling of severe anxiety, which is often triggered by the thought or idea of being alone.
Autophobia can also be triggered as a result of being without or the thought of not being by the side of “that one person.” This person (although may not know it) has the capacity to affect the patient’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities.
For example, there are some people who can’t function without seeing their favorite family member. If the person starts to think about not being close to that family member, the person may start to experience panic attacks.
If this occurs, that person can also be said to experience autophobia.
Just like other specific phobias, the exact cause of autophobia is unknown. However, experts have attributed the development of this anxiety disorder to two main factors:
Mostly, when an event occurs in the patient’s childhood that forces the child to feel alone, that child may carry that experience into adulthood and develop autophobia.
For example, if the child’s parents are involved in a brutal divorce, and the child sees the parent (especially his or her favorite parent) walk away, the child can begin to feel abandoned and later go on to develop autophobia.
Also, if the one or both parents of the child dies, the child who may not understand things properly at the time of the incident may begin to feel left alone and abandoned. If this is not properly corrected, the child may grow up developing autophobia.
In some certain rare cases, a child may develop the feeling of abandonment if he or she was forced to go through a particular trauma alone. This may result in the development of autophobia.
Most people who have had parents, siblings or other family members who have developed any form of anxiety disorder can go on to develop any phobia, including autophobia.
Some experts have attributed autophobia to be a part of a larger panic disorder (or borderline personality disorder) where certain factors such as the inability to self-soothe and the feelings of fear of abandonment are contributing to this disorder.
What are the conditions which are related to autophobia that can trigger this disorder?
As earlier stated, autophobia can be developed as a result of the existence of other anxiety disorders. For example, people who have experienced panic attacks can develop autophobia.
This is because they may begin to dread being alone, especially when they have an episode of panic attacks. This can lead to the ultimate fear of ever being alone.
Autophobia also has been linked to another anxiety disorder, which is known as agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is the intense fear of being absolutely unable to escape from a particular situation or place.
Sometimes, autophobia has been seen to be a symptom of agoraphobia.
Most people who have agoraphobia often fear that when caught up in situations, they can’t escape it without being helped by someone and so they begin to fear being alone, leading to autophobia.
Most people who have agoraphobia often dread moving in public transport or walking in crowded places where they have little or no control over the outcome of any situation that may arise in such places.
Agoraphobia has been seen to reduce a person’s self-worth and self-esteem. It has also been seen to impair a person’s ability to complete tasks on their own.
Some researchers have also attempted to link autophobia with borderline disorders. However, there are no current studies that support that idea.
Symptoms of autophobia
Most people who have autophobia feel unsafe when they are alone or on their own. Sometimes, they often begin to speak of impending doom and may begin to find it hard to breathe.
Autophobia can cause a person to become very anxious at the mere thought of being alone or at the prospect of spending time out alone in the room while everyone else is in another room.
Another common symptom with people who have autophobia is that they think that their loved ones will leave or abandon them soon. This is particularly common with those who have lost a parent, both parents or a loved family member, at one point in their lives (especially at childhood).
However, if this is the only symptom the patient is experiencing, it may not mean full-blown autophobia yet. The patient may just be experiencing separation disorder, which can also be experienced in autophobia.
People who have autophobia will experience the following symptoms:
- The sense of impending doom when left alone
- Feelings of being in danger and unsafe
- Fear of an intruder breaking in to cause them harm
- Feelings of overwhelming anxiety when left alone
- Inability to breathe
- Feelings of fainting.
- Thoughts of death may occur to them.
- Inability to think correctly or process things thoroughly when kept alone.
- They are often compelled to run and always find company.
- Increased heart rates, rapid breathing rate, and racing pulse rates
- Some people may begin to feel sick and feel faint
- Severe sweating
- Intense shaking.
People who experience autophobia may be seen doing the following:
- Going to extreme lengths in order not to be alone
- Always trying to find a company as soon as one party leaves them alone
- Always finding excuses for someone to stay and not leave, even when it is impractical, and there is no need for them to stay.
- Always showing a lack of independence and always being clingy in relationships
Can autophobia influence your relationship?
If you are in a romantic relationship, due to your fear of being alone, you might find yourself compromising and “just going along with the flow” even when you are not favored.
You may find yourself being with someone who doesn’t respect you and treat you poorly simply because you don’t want to be alone.
According to Dr. Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Manhattan, your irrational fear can lead you to rush into relationships with someone who probably doesn’t like you that much, and this explains why most of your relationships don’t last.
Also, according to Dr. Chloe, autophobia can mess up the relationship that you are supposed to have with yourself. It is important for you to enjoy spending time with you.
However, when you begin to feel something will happen to you, or you begin to have negative thoughts about yourself, you might spiral into catastrophic thinking.
It is important for you to stop thinking that you are always going to be alone or end up alone. Remember, technically, we all remain single until we meet our partners, and you will surely meet yours.
How can I be diagnosed with having autophobia?
Anyone who is experiencing autophobia or thinks he or she has autophobia should talk to their doctor about it. Once your doctor has physically accessed you and ruled out other possibilities, you may be referred to a mental health specialist.
Your mental health specialist will ask you a series of questions about your behavior and feelings, as well as your fears.
Your answers to these questions will help them evaluate you and your state of mind. This evaluation will help them to diagnose any mental condition that may be affecting you properly.
For you to be diagnosed with autophobia, it means that your fears and symptoms are severe enough to interfere with your everyday life and activities.
What are my treatment options?
Just like other phobias, autophobia has a wide range of treatment options. However, most of these treatments can be classified into the following;
1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy(CBT)
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, also known as CBT, is a type of therapy session that offers people with different kinds of phobias, including Autophobia practical ways on how to deal with their fears.
Since autophobia has to deal with the fear of spending time alone, CBT will offer you practical measures you can carry out to help you cope with spending time with yourself.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 75% of people who have deal th with specific phobias were able to overcome their fears using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
2. Exposure therapy
Exposure therapy is usually classified as a form of CBT. According to research conducted by the experts in the University of Exeter, United Kingdom, exposure therapy has been Sen to help break the cycle of avoidance that is often associated with people who have specific phobias.
Since autophobia deals with the fear of being alone, people who have this fear tend to avoid spending time with themselves.
Every time these people avoid spending time alone, their brain registers it as anxiety; therefore, their anxiety levels increase anytime they avoid spending time with themselves.
What exposure therapy seeks to do is to expose these people to their fear but in a controlled manner.
By exposing them to their fears repeatedly, people who have autophobia can break this vicious cycle and also increase their adaptability and tolerance for staying alone.
3. Use of Medications
Sometimes, if psychotherapy isn’t working or it isn’t functional as it should, then your doctor may prescribe the use of certain medications. Some of these medications include:
Beta-blockers function by effectively blocking the effects of adrenaline that is often released when a person is anxious or scared. It is this adrenaline that causes you to want to run when confronted with your fears.
When the secretion of adrenaline is blocked by beta-blockers, you will have the fighting chance to realize that your fears are nothing but just fears.
Benzodiazepines are basically sedative drugs. These sedative drugs are very effective in treating anxiety and panic attacks. However, it is only in extreme cases that your doctor may prescribe these drugs to you.
This is because these drugs, although very effective, can be quite addictive if used without control.
When autophobia is treated, people can manage themselves very well. It is safe to say that the outlook of this condition is promising and positive.
In other words, once a person has recognized that he or she has autophobia, they meet their doctor for treatment, and they properly go through with their therapy and drugs, then their conditions will improve.
Over time, after using the right treatment plan, these patients will find out that the fear they normally experience when they stay alone will either reduce significantly, or it will go away entirely. As such, a person can enjoy his or her alone time again.