Have you ever heard about the extreme fear of being alone or alone? If we take into account the society in which we live, where so little self-acceptance has worked, it is not such a rare disorder.
In this article we will reflect on the concept of loneliness and its implications, and we will also see what autophobia consists of , what are some of its symptoms, its possible causes and treatments.
- Related article: ” Types of phobias: exploring fear disorders“
Autophobia: a specific phobia
The word autophobia comes from the Greek “auto” (meaning “alone”), and the word “phobia” (meaning “fear”). Thus, autophobia literally means “fear of oneself”.
However, in psychology this term does not mean exactly this, but rather a fear of the possibility of being alone with oneself (physically speaking) . Specifically, autophobia is a rare phobia, consisting of intense, irrational and disproportionate fear of the possibility of being alone or physically alone. Other names that autophobia receives are: monophobia or isolophobia.
This irrational fear is mainly due to an intense fear of the possibility of being ignored, of feeling unloved or of suffering some kind of threat from an intruder. In short, people with autophobia are panicking to be left alone.
Like any specific phobia, where the stimulus is the fact of being physically alone, it is an anxiety disorder . The symptoms produced by autophobia are diverse in nature: psychological, physical and emotional.
Beyond feeling alone
We have all felt lonely sometime in our life, either because we are really physically alone at any given time, or because we feel unloved or without anyone to turn to (that is, a more emotional than physical loneliness).
However, autophobia goes beyond this simple fact, since the person becomes truly anxious about the possibility or actual fact of being physically alone. That is, he feels lonely. Thus, the symptoms appear when the individual is left physically alone or when he believes that this situation may occur soon .
In short, it is not the same to feel alone (which is a common symptom in many people, and does not imply greater pathology) than to suffer from autophobia, a real, specific and disabling phobia. Its intensity is much higher.
Poor tolerance to loneliness
It is curious how the society in which we live “sells us” the idea that we must be autonomous, empower ourselves, fend for ourselves, etc., and yet the same culture shows increasing difficulties to face loneliness.
We see this in couples who cannot live without each other, in extremely toxic dependency relationships , etc. They have made us believe, especially as a couple, that we need someone to “complete” us, when we really do not need anyone, but simply have the option to enjoy life with someone who complements us.
All this ends up generating in the person a feeling of anguish in the face of loneliness, of constant need to seek the other, to “connect” with others through the networks, the telephone … It is as if we were afraid to endure ourselves. This, taken to the extreme and added to other factors, can trigger a disorder such as autophobia.
Now that we have known, briefly, the concept of autophobia, we will know its most frequent symptoms. Thus, autophobia implies a series of symptoms on a physical, psychological and emotional level, such as the following.
One of the typical symptoms of autophobia is great personal insecurity. This insecurity translates into difficulties for (or impossibility of) to be alone with oneself .
Many times, low self-esteem and the constant need for the approval of others are also associated in this type of patients . There may also be (and in fact, frequent) a great emotional dependence. The person “cannot” do things alone, by himself and without the help or approval of others.
2. Irrational ideas
Associated with autophobia, irrational ideas or thoughts such as “I’m going to die” or “are going to hurt me” may also appear when the person is alone. Thus, it may even fear for its life, in extreme cases .
3. High anxiety or fear
Anxiety, in fact, is the main symptom of autophobia, which is triggered by the possibility or the fact of being alone physically and leads to a situation of loss of control over the body.
4. Physical symptoms
Physical symptoms, as in any specific phobia, also appear. These can vary greatly from one person to another, but generally include: palpitations, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, excessive sweating, hypertension, tachycardias … In a way, the person somatizes that intense fear, and this translates through the body.
- You may be interested: ” Types of Anxiety Disorders and their characteristics“
The causes of autophobia, as in any specific phobia, can be very varied, and in some ways, are unknown. However, we can hypothesize some; mainly, in its origin we find a traumatic event related to loneliness; for example, the fact of having suffered a situation of abuse, of not being able to get help, of having been robbed or robbed, etc. That is, the fact of having experienced a negative and traumatic situation being alone. In addition, if these negative experiences have been lived in childhood, the psychological repercussions can be even greater .
On the other hand, and in a way, autophobia may also have “learned”, by observing other people with autophobia, or having heard in the news people who have suffered a traumatic or violent situation alone, etc. In addition, there may also be a certain biological predisposition (vulnerability) to suffer from an anxiety disorder , which, together with other factors, ends up causing this specific phobia.
In addition, it is a somewhat particular phobia, since in a way, the feared stimulus “is oneself” (although the person himself is not feared, but the absence of others). That is to say, one fears what can happen by being alone, and one fears loneliness itself. It is paradoxical.
The quintessential treatment of specific phobias is exposure treatment. In the case of autophobia, the patient would be exposed to remain alone in certain spaces (for example his home), and that loneliness time would be increased, through a hierarchy of items.
On the other hand, the patient’s self-esteem and emotional dependence should also be worked through exercises that empower him and highlight his strengths and abilities. Irrational and negative thoughts should also be addressed, so that they can be replaced by more optimistic, realistic and adaptive thoughts.
The goal of all these techniques is for the patient to “understand” and verify for himself that nothing bad happens because of being alone (through exposure and cognitive therapy), and that he can even have very positive experiences being. In addition, loneliness is also a source of wealth and learning, and opens the door to new ways of tolerating oneself, knowing oneself and loving oneself.
At the root of the problem
It is also important to note that it will be vital to analyze each specific case, and this implies studying in depth the causes (or causes) that have caused autophobia , in order to work on them.
That is, to treat the experience and trauma of the traumatic event (with the relevant psychological techniques) if this has been the cause of the phobia, dysfunctional thoughts, dependent personality, poor self-esteem, etc.