Phobias are, along with depression and anxiety, the most common mental disorders.
Although they generally tend to be less disabling than other disorders because the stimuli that generate them are generally not found on a continuous basis, in some cases the stimulus or feared situation is much more prevalent and can be a real one. nightmare, which severely restricts a person’s performance in various vital areas. This is what happens with phobias like agoraphobia, social phobia or the phobia we will talk about in this article: anthropophobia.
What is a phobia?
While this may be something that is more or less known to most people, before getting to the topic of anthropophobia, it may be helpful to clarify what it means to have a phobia.
When we talk about phobias we talk irrational fears of stimuli and situations which may be more specific or general, and which cause him a deep level of anxiety and physiological activation that the subject himself recognizes as exaggerated for the level of threat posed by the stimulus in question. This panic and anxiety causes the subject to shop as much as possible to get closer to the stimulus or situation in question, which can affect their normal functioning.
It is not a vulgar fear but a real panic that can lead to physiological or behavioral alterations such as continuous flight and avoiding places where the stimulus might appear or fleeing from situations in which the stimulus in question appears. In some cases, the subject may remain beside said stimulus, but at the expense of great suffering and anxiety.
There are many phobias, some more limiting than others depending on both the stimuli and the circumstances in which they occur or the subject lives (it is not the same to be afraid of flying with an airplane as a paddle in as a pilot, be more fear relevant to the second). Anthropophobia is one of the most limiting, especially since we live in society and human contact is fundamental for us.
Anthropophobia or fear of people
Anthropophobia is known as the fear of people. It is understood as the phobia or fear of contact with other people and their business, sometimes also appearing the fear of being judged by them. Fear does not only appear in the face of strangers, but they can also feel like a threat to their family and friends despite their trust.
The subject generally recognizes this fear as strange and irrational, but is unable to control it. Panic can cause difficulty concentrating and following consistent, continuous mental speech. It can also cause speech problems, which are intermittent due to anxiety.
They usually avoid contact and company, not because they don’t want it (in many cases if they do, which in the face of their difficulty generates deep suffering and a feeling of loneliness) but by the anguish that generates them. It is not uncommon for some of these people to become completely isolated, without contact with other people unless they have to live with them. They avoid eye contact and even physical contact, and usually quickly turn red when they attempt to interact.
Physiologically, when exposed to contact with other people, those who suffer from anthropophobia generally present tachycardia, hyperventilation, sweating, muscle tension, nausea, Dizziness, suffocation, headache, dizziness, tremors and general malaise. These reactions can occur not only in the face of direct exposure, but in anticipation of the idea of having to come into contact with someone.
It is a very limiting phobia, which makes it difficult to interact with most people in almost all situations and will have social, academic and professional repercussions. This is why its treatment is essential so that the individual can have a full life and stop seeing limited.
Differentiation with social phobia
Anthropophobia can often be confused with other phobias, due to the similarity between existing symptoms and the type of stimulation causing them.
The most difficult distinction to make is between anthropophobia or fear of people and social phobia, which is often considered the same phobia due to the similarity of its characteristics. But although in both cases social contact is avoided and the reactions are similar, some subtle differences can be detected between the two types of phobia.
The main and most notorious refers to what he feared in himself. Social phobia involves the onset of intense fear or anxiety in one or more social situations in which the individual is exposed to possible scrutiny by other people, usually unknown (not so common fear of people in who trusts). He is afraid to act in such a way that he may be judged negatively and be humiliated or rejected in the face of poor performance or the manifestation of fear or anxiety, which generates panic which leads him to present a persistent avoidance or resistance to social situations.
Unlike anthropophobia fear is specifically towards people and connections to them regardless of their judgment and situation. It’s not that they avoid social situations, but that their fear can lead them to avoid direct contact with another person, even the most important to them.
It doesn’t mean they don’t have any relationship. In fact, it’s common for them to show up together, and anthropophobia has sometimes been seen as a subtype of social phobia, but it’s relevant to note that we aren’t exactly talking about the same thing and they aren’t. are not synonymous.
As with other phobias, the causes of anthropophobia are usually not entirely clear. However, in many cases, intense panic on contact it is usually derived from the experience of traumatic or stressful events like school bullying or, in more serious cases, child abuse or even sexual violence.
These experiences may have conditioned the subject’s response to contact with others, generating panic due to the association between social contact and pain or humiliation experienced throughout life. Lack of social skills can also facilitate the onset of this phobia., Not knowing how to act right in front of others.
Finally, it should be kept in mind that it can also appear as a symptom of a disorder rather than a disorder in itself, as is the case in some cases in people with psychotic problems.
Treatment of this and other types of phobias it is carried out by psychotherapyThere are several treatments to use with proven effectiveness.
The best known and most effective technique is exposure. Basically, therapy involves the subject being gradually exposed to the feared stimuli until the level of anxiety, panic, and physiological activation decreases. It is important to note that this exposure must be progressive, Establish a hierarchy with the patient. It can allow a temporary escape in situations where the anxiety is unbearable for the subject, provided that he returns to the situation.
The most effective exposure is live exposure, in which the patient is actually exposed to the dreaded stimulation. However, before that, it is possible to resort to imaginative exposure to feared situations or even exposure by means of virtual reality.
It should be borne in mind that for an anthropophobic person, the situation of going to therapy can also be aversive for the patient when faced with a situation that requires contact with another person (in fact being the subject). exponent – to his dreaded stimulus). In this regard, it may be necessary to establish a chain of steps in which the subject gradually comes into contact with the therapist by telephone, video call and finally face to face.
Besides exposure, anthropophobia is very useful cognitive restructuring work to fight any beliefs that could have generated or maintained panic at the idea of getting closer to another person. Training in social skills can also be useful (although therapy should already be advanced) and in assertiveness to improve abilities. Finally, the use of expressive therapies can be useful for them to express their fears and doubts, as well as techniques that increase self-esteem.
Sometimes when the panic and anxiety are very intense it can be helpful occasional use of a certain type of tranquilizer such as benzodiazepines, Or certain types of antidepressants. As with social phobia, the use of paroxetine appears to be particularly helpful.
However, it should be borne in mind that this use of pharmacology would not solve the problem on its own, but only temporarily reduce anxiety symptoms. Thus, the treatment of anthropophobia and other phobias requires psychological therapy, although it may benefit from the use of pharmacology as a supplement.