Most people desire to be around others. Even the shyest and most introverted people have moments where they want and need to be around people. That desire is a normal part of being human because human beings are wired to connect with others. This makes the thought of being alone a real fear for many. With the development of the dating websites and apps, it has given people more opportunities to seek companionship and connection. Even if individuals are not romantically involved with someone else, they have other friendships or relationships in their lives to fulfill that desire of intimacy and connection ingrained in human nature. While the desire for connection and the fear of being alone is normal for many, the fear can be so overwhelming that it creates incredible amounts of anxiety for some people. The overwhelming fear of being alone or in isolation is called autophobia.
Autophobia involves more than just a fear of being alone. For individuals experiencing autophobia, they have a fear of being in isolation and intense anxiety over what might occur if they are alone. Many are afraid of something terrible occurring if left alone. Along with the fear of something happening when they are alone, individuals can experience other symptoms including:
- Nausea, dizziness, chest tightness, shakiness, hyperventilation, and increased heart rate (symptoms common for those suffering from a panic/anxiety attack)
- Fear of situations where they might be left alone
- Becoming obsessive in worrying about being left alone
- Avoiding situations where they might be isolated or alone
- Having thoughts dominated with worry of all fears related to autophobia
Individuals with autophobia often experience these symptoms so severely that it interferes with their ability to live their life. The good news is there are treatment options to help individuals overcome and manage the fears associated with this phobia.
Exposure therapy is a common treatment option for those experiencing any type of phobia. The idea is to provide individuals with anxiety management techniques. The fear is slowing and gradually introduced while anxiety-reducing techniques are implemented. As individuals successfully reduce anxiety, the professional gradually exposes them to the fear. For example, it might start with only thinking of being alone and then eventually getting to a place where they are able to be alone. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can also be used to help individuals alter the negative thought patterns associated with the phobia. Behavior and cognitive modification often allows people to overcome a phobia to the point where it no longer dominates their life. Medication can help as well in conjunction with therapy. Certain medications can specifically help with reducing the feelings of panic and anxiety, allowing individuals to actually put the therapeutic techniques into practice.
The fear of being alone is not necessarily uncommon. However, some people experience a fear so overwhelming that it inhibits their ability to live the life they want to live. Individuals who feel they might have autophobia should talk to their doctor or a mental health professional. With proper treatment, people can find success in overcoming phobias including autophobia.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant in sports psychology. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.