Empaths and other highly sensitive personality types tend to avoid crowds because the experience leaves them feeling emotionally, perhaps physically drained. Such people are so attuned to the emotions of other people that they experience a form of sensory overload with many people in close vicinity. Or, they simply prefer not to deal with the competitiveness that happens in crowded situations such as theaters, restaurants, outdoor markets, and the like. But if a person’s dislike of crowds is actually a dread of crowds so strong that they don’t merely tend to avoid crowds but instead spend prodigious amounts of time and effort at planning to stay far from mobs or crowds, they might be suffering the problem called “Enochlophobia” by mental health professionals. They are not able to go shopping, to visit fairs, nor to enjoy many public events and venues such as outdoor concerts, beaches, and shopping malls.
Enochlophobia sounds something like agoraphobia, but the words mean different things. Agoraphobia is a fear of open and enclosed spaces aka places (e.g., buses and trains, standing in lines somewhere), not especially the people in them. Agoraphobia is about feeling vulnerable to an incapacitating degree. The agoraphobic person wants to escape the place/s where they’re located. Enochlophobia is about feeling vulnerable to an incapacitating degree and thus wanting to avoid people and specific situations.
We can break the words down this way:
En = in ochlo = crowds phobia = fear
Agora = marketplace phobia/fear
Both sorts of problems share the same symptoms:
- Short, rapid breaths which can be faint or strong,
- Digestive problems,
- Excessive perspiration,
- Extreme fear of the potential for public humiliation
or some other safety issue,
- Hard-to-define discomfort at the thought of being in crowds or public spaces.
Social phobias, the above problems are somewhat similar but distinct enough for mental health professionals to sort through. There is a way to address each problem, too. Treatment depends on why the fear exists, though. That fear could be the result of a traumatic experience, a learned behavior, an unproductive response to an unusual level of stress over a temporary or long-term situation, and a fearful response that develops into a full-blown phobia.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a highly effective and well-respected method for ending emotional trauma in a shorter amount of time than talk therapy requires. Certified EMDR therapists direct the movements of a client’s eyes as they speak aloud of a troubling incident or overall problem until it no longer causes an emotional reaction. The person develops an objective understanding of the troubling matter and is able to take on a non-fearful life.
Self-Help efforts such as meditation, relaxation techniques and mindfulness practices help people to calm down and to understand their troubles as issues which can be overcome with a specific focus on being pragmatic.
Hypnotherapy helps a person to focus on the core issues in order to be relieved of the symptoms troubling them.
Talk therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) enables a person to sort out the issues with a challenge to the way they think and behave about a problem, and to develop a plan of action for thinking and behaving in more productive ways.
This article is only an overview of enochlophobia. It is not a definitive analysis of a specific fearful phobia nor does it present a complete list of symptoms and solutions. If you believe that you or someone you care about is experiencing a phobia of any sort, including an intense fear of crowds, consider the wisdom of consulting a licensed psychotherapist who can help to end it.