Having a fear of crowds is a very real and valid phobia. It can complicate your life in ways you never imagined and most often creates a feeling of being smothered. Although many people can suffer from it, it affects each person differently. According to Change That’s Right Now website, fear of crowds can also have very real mental, emotional and physical symptoms.
You can read more about the definition of phobia in this article. You will discover that there are many different types of phobia and that their symptoms are quite similar to one another. Encountering these symptoms may vary in intensity and you may not experience all of them at once, but a general occurrence of some of these symptoms is enough to have very negative impacts on anyone.
Mental symptoms of the fear of crowds include:
- Thinking obsessively about being in crowds and how you would/will react
- Having the fear itself take over your thoughts to the point where you can’t think of anything else
- Bad images of crowds and what can happen when you are part of a crowd
- Feelings of not facing reality
- Being afraid that you are going crazy
- Worrying that you might faint
Emotional symptoms of the fear of crowds include:
- Worrying about events that involve crowds
- Having that worry turn into overwhelming fear
- A desire to always leave the situation, even though the fear is only in your mind
Physical symptoms of the fear of crowds include:
- Dizziness, shaking
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling like you are choking
- Sweating more than normal
- Feeling nauseous or having an upset stomach
All of the above symptoms can happen at the mere thought of crowded places and worrying about having to be involved with a large crowd. If being in a crowd is completely unavoidable, these symptoms can intensify and your fear of crowds phobia can be brought to an uncontrollably high level. Fear of large crowds can be extremely stressful and can have a lasting and mentally damaging effect on you. If this is what you experience at the slight thought of being part of a crowd, then you may be at a point where professional intervention is needed.
At this juncture, medications to soothe the fear of crowds may be in order but must be prescribed by a doctor. Never attempt to self-medicate, and never take medication from someone else who has experienced the same thing. This is the worst thing you can do! Unfortunately, family and friends try to help by sharing their own prescriptions, but they are not experts and, in trying to do some good for you, they can often suggest things that can actually harm you.
Plan on seeing someone who has the knowledge and the experience to treat someone with your symptoms. Remember that what works for one person isn’t guaranteed to work for another. Each person is different and can be treated in a different way, including what medications they can use. Fooling around with drugs on your own can be very dangerous and this matter simply must be left to the experts.
Anxiety drugs can help on the short term, but even so, they can also come with a number of unpleasant side effects that can be dangerous. Don’t become so dependent on the drugs that, before you know it, you are coming to terms with your phobia, but at the same time, are risking becoming addicted to the drugs. This is a catch-22 and there is a fine line between finding what treatment is best for you and not harming yourself in the process with long lasting unwanted effects. You might find yourself dealing with the phobia itself, but creating a new problem where one did not exist before.
Talking to your doctor is the best place to start to manage your phobia. They can possibly suggest a therapist who may be able to help you. When you have the details worked out and take an appointment to see the therapist, make sure you let them know all the details of your condition. Don’t leave anything out, sometimes the smallest details can make the biggest difference. They will most likely start off with trying Exposure Therapy; a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that you can read more about on PsychCentral.com. It involves a series of steps and, even though not all of them are pleasant, professionals feel this type of therapy is necessary to find a way to treat the phobia.
Steps to deal with fear of crowds through Exposure Therapy include:
- Evaluation – At this first stage of therapy, you will need to really do some soul-searching and tell the therapist all you can about your condition and how it affects you and those around you. Don’t be shy about giving a detailed account of what happens to you when you experience the fear and anxiety of your particular phobia.
- Feedback – After the therapist hears what you have to say, they can safely and adequately make an evaluation of a treatment plan that they feel is best for you. It can involve both drugs and behavioral types of therapy, all geared to help you gain a handle on the phobia you are suffering from. This type of information may be the most helpful of all, as you will know exactly what is planned for your treatment and how you can expect it to help you.
- Developing fear anxiety – This part of the therapy isn’t going to be the most pleasant. It will expose you to scenarios that you are most afraid of, so you are going to have to “buck up” and try to deal with these unpleasantries while under the therapist’s careful watch. You should feel better that you are being watched and your therapist will keep you safe while undergoing this phase.
- Exposure – You will begin to expose yourself to things that you fear but can safely deal with while your therapist evaluates your behavior in these situations.
- Building – Here, you will gain a good understanding of what you must do to conquer your fear. You will be able to move on to more difficult situations and learn how to deal with them head on. The therapist will assist you every step of the way.
In the end, a successful therapy experience will allow you to live phobia-free.