Phobias commonly bury people in fear and panic, and it’s not uncommon for a phobia like autophobia to control a person’s life. Autophobia is the fear of being alone, and the phobia may take one of several, subtle forms.
One person might suffer from the fear of living alone while another might be afraid of simply being alone in the house. Another sufferer might have an irrational fear of being alone while outside, and some people might feel terrified at being separated from a particular person.
What is the Fear of Being Alone?
It’s not uncommon for people to feel a twinge of fear or nervousness at the sight of a spider crawling up the wall; however, this mild fear isn’t enough to suggest someone might have arachnophobia, which is a fear of spiders. Likewise, a little nervousness about being alone in the house while watching a scary movie isn’t enough to suggest someone has a paralyzing fear of being alone.
In fact, small children who cry and throw tantrums when they’re separated from their parents aren’t unusual, and psychologists suggest this fear is fairly common. A natural part of growing up and exiting childhood is learning autonomy and the ability to function without the constant support of a parent. A child may throw a tantrum when left at elementary school for the first time, but the child soon learns to cope with the situation.
Fears that Define Autophobia
Although the catchall phrase to define autophobia is the “fear of being alone,” the phobia may also be defined by specific behaviors, actions, and circumstances. The one commonality in each of these circumstances is that a person is alone for one reason or another, and the fear that results from this condition makes it impossible for the sufferer to lead a normal life.
Some of the fears within an autophobia definition may include:
- Fear of being left alone at home
- Fear of living alone
- Fear of living apart from a specific person
- Fear of being outside alone
Common Autophobia Symptoms
Most commonly, autophobia symptoms surround an intense fear of being alone or isolated. However, there are various shades of isolation, as well as some additional fears that may come with a diagnosis of autophobia. For example, someone need not be physically alone to experience the fear or panic associated with the disorder.
For example, autophobia may result from a person’s inability to believe in her or her own capabilities. Self-hatred and loathing are common features of someone who suffers from autophobia. Sufferers may possess an unfounded fear that people around them are ignoring them, or that no one could love them. Those with autophobia sometimes fear being harmed by an unknown person whenever they’re alone.
A diagnosis of autophobia may result when the following symptoms are experienced:
- Intense anxiety while thinking about being alone
- Extraordinary steps taken to avoid being alone
- An inability to function normally while alone
- The insatiable need to have others close by at all times
- Scared of being alone in life without a partner
It’s important to note that certain regions refer to autophobia as “monophobia,” but the symptoms remain the same no matter the label given to the phobia.
Events that May Cause Autophobia
While young children may experience some of the symptoms of autophobia while they’re very young because they’re just not used to being away from their parents, adults usually undergo an unfortunate event that leads to the development of the disorder.
For example, losing a spouse, relative, or close friend may cause a person to develop feelings of abandonment. An overwhelming sense of grief may perpetuate the loneliness a bereaved individual feels which may become impossible to overcome if the feelings persist.
Complications from Fear of Loneliness
Someone who suffers from autophobia may experience unfortunate consequences related to their phobia. According to a study conducted by a researcher at the University of Toronto, the fear of being alone could force a person to stay in a relationship that wasn’t healthy. Instead of leaving a harmful relationship a person might remain connected to someone abusive. His or her phobia could cause emotional or physical damage.
The study showed that a significant portion of the individuals questioned revealed that they feared not having a long-term companion, feared losing a partner, and feared growing old alone. These and other similar fears inspired many people to remain in unhealthy relationships.
When Autophobia Symptoms are Severe
For anyone who suffers from autophobia to such a degree that a normal life isn’t possible, therapy and professional treatment may be required. Any phobia that forces a person to act in such a way that is detrimental to his or her health is something that needs professional attention or significant work on the part of the afflicted to work toward reducing the severity of symptoms.
A therapist may be able to offer various treatment options or help create a treatment plan that will help reduce the severity of symptoms over time. A therapist may help someone suffering from autophobia figure out the triggering event that caused the condition to develop. Once that event is identified, work may begin to come to terms with its emotional impact.
Narcissism and its Relationship to Autophobia
Psychologists have drawn connections between the phobia of being alone and adults who had narcissistic parents. Narcissism is defined as an unhealthy interest in oneself or one’s personal appearance. When a parent has narcissistic personality disorder, he or she may influence the mental development of a child.
According to an article in the periodical Psychology Today, the children of narcissistic parents encounter struggles with trusting other people, and they may develop a fear of loneliness because of self-esteem problems. With a self-esteem issue, a person might not believe that he or she can operate successfully in life without other people.
Learning to Cope with Autophobia
Almost everyone is afraid of being alone at one point or another in life, but these chance feelings don’t usually require that someone seek therapy or similar solutions. However, for anyone who is afraid to be alone and finds his or her life interrupted a paralyzing fear, there are some coping strategies available.
For example, if a person is scared to be alone, silence may make those feelings more intense. Sometimes using music or television to fill the quiet may help reduce the feelings of panic from being alone. Even if the television isn’t being watched and is just in the background, the general noise of something like a football game with its cheering crowds, whistles, and commentary may help a situation feel less solitary.
For individuals who are afraid of being alone when they go outside, it may help to bring music to play. A shopping trip alone might not feel so terrifying with an MP3 player and some headphones. Additionally, undertaking an activity while alone may help reduce anxiety. An activity may be something as simple as putting a puzzle together, or it may include some meditation or exercise.
Like any phobia, autophobia has the potential to interfere with a normal life. Investigating methods to reduce the severity of symptoms is important to maintain mental and physical health.