Have you ever heard of the extreme fear of being alone or alone? If we consider the society we live in, where so little self-acceptance has been developed, it’s not such a strange mess.
In this article, we will reflect on the concept of loneliness and its implications, as well as we will see what autophobia consists of, What are some of its symptoms, possible causes and treatments.
Autophobia: a specific phobia
The word autophobia comes from the Greek “self” (meaning “by itself”) and the word “phobia” (meaning “fear”). So, autophobia literally means “fear of oneself”.
However, in psychology this term has no meaning, but rather a fear of being alone with oneself (physically speaking). Specifically, autophobia is a rare phobia, which consists of an intense fear that is irrational and disproportionate to the possibility of being alone or physically alone. Other names given to autophobia are: monophobia or isolophobia.
This irrational fear is mainly due to an intense fear of the possibility of being ignored, feeling unloved, or undergoing some sort of threat from an intruder. Ultimately, people with autophobia panic about being left alone.
Like any specific phobia, where the stimulus is to be physically alone, it’s an anxiety disorder. The symptoms produced by autophobia are diverse in nature: psychological, physical and emotional.
Beyond feeling alone
We have all felt lonely at some point in our lives, either because we are really physically alone at some point, or because we feel unloved or without anyone to turn to (i.e. more emotional than physical loneliness).
However, autophobia goes beyond this simple fact, as the person comes to experience real anxiety about the possibility or the real fact of being left physically alone. In other words, he panics at loneliness. like that, symptoms appear when the individual is left physically alone or when they think this situation may arise soon.
In short, it is not the same to feel alone (which is a common symptom in many people, and does not imply additional pathology) to suffer from autophobia, a real, specific and disabling phobia. Its intensity is much greater.
Lack of tolerance for loneliness
It is curious to know how the society in which we live “sells” us the idea that we should be autonomous, empowered, fend for ourselves, etc., and yet the same culture shows more and more difficulties to cope with. loneliness.
We see this in couples who cannot live without each other, in extremely toxic dependent relationships, Etc. They made us believe, especially at the couple level, that we need someone to “complete” us, when in reality we don’t need anyone, just the possibility of enjoying life with someone. ‘one to complete us.
All this ends up generating in the person a feeling of anguish in the face of loneliness, of a constant need to seek the other, to “connect” to others through networks, the telephone … It’s like if that made us support ourselves. This, taken to extremes and added to other factors, can trigger a disorder like autophobia.
Now that we have briefly learned about the concept of autophobia, let us know about its most common symptoms. Thus, autophobia involves a number 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 results in difficulty with (or inability to) be alone with oneself.
Often times, this type of patient is also associated with low self-esteem and the constant need for approval from others. There can also be (and in fact is common) a great deal of emotional dependence. The person “cannot” do things on their own, on their own and without the help or approval of others.
2. Irrational ideas
Associated with autophobia, irrational ideas or thoughts such as “I am going to die” or “I am going to hurt myself” can also appear when the person is alone. So this one he may even come to fear for his life, in extreme cases.
3. Anxiety increases or fear
Anxiety, in fact, is the main symptom of autophobia, which is triggered by the possibility or the fact of being physically alone 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 widely from person to person, but typically include: palpitations, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, excessive sweating, hypertension, tachycardia… In a way, the person somatizes this intense fear, and it translates through the body.
The causes of autophobia, as with any specific phobia, can be very varied and in some ways are unknown. However, we can speculate about it; mainly, at its origin, we find a traumatic event related to loneliness; for example, having been subjected to a situation of abuse, not being able to get help, having been stolen or stolen, etc. That is to say the fact of having lived a negative and traumatic situation while being alone. Outraged, if these negative experiences were lived in childhood, the psychological repercussions may be even greater.
On the other hand, and in a way, autophobia may also have been ‘learned’, by observing other autophobic people, or hearing on the news from people who have experienced a traumatic or violent situation. Being alone, etc. In addition, also there may be a biological predisposition (vulnerability) to having an anxiety disorderThis, along with other factors, ends up giving rise to this specific phobia.
In addition, it is a somewhat peculiar phobia, because in a way, the dreaded stimulus “is oneself” (although one does not fear one’s own person, but the absence of others). In other words, we are afraid of what can happen while being alone, and we are afraid of loneliness itself. This is paradoxical.
The treatment par excellence for specific phobias is exposure treatment. In the case of autophobia, the patient would be exposed to stay only in certain spaces (for example at home), and this time of solitude would be increased, thanks to a hierarchy of items.
On the other hand also you will need to work on the patient’s self-esteem and emotional dependence through exercises that empower him and highlight his strengths and abilities. They will also need to address irrational and negative thoughts, so that they can be replaced with more optimistic, realistic, and adaptive thoughts.
The aim of all these techniques is that the patient “understands” and checks for himself that nothing bad happens to him to be alone (Through exposure and cognitive therapy), and that you can even have very positive experiences. In addition, loneliness is also a source of wealth and learning, and opens the door to new ways of tolerating, knowing and loving each other.
At the root of the problem
It is also important to note that it will be of vital importance analyze each specific case, and this involves studying in depth the causes (or causes) that caused the autophobia, To be able to work there.
That is, to treat the experience and trauma of the traumatic event (with appropriate psychological techniques) if it was the cause of the phobia, dysfunctional thoughts, dependent personality, poor self-esteem, etc.
- American Psychiatric Association -APA- (2014). DSM-5. Manual diagnosis and statistics of mental disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.
- Horse (2002). Manual for the cognitive-behavioral treatment of psychological disorders. Flight. 1 and 2. Madrid. 21st century.
- López, A. (2005). Specific phobias. Faculty of Psychology. Department of Personality, Psychological Assessment and Treatment.