Do you dread the thought of your partner leaving you? Or are you getting too anxious knowing that you have to live alone when your kids go to college? Being lonely is unpleasant, but it turns into autophobia when thoughts of being alone become a persistent fear and affect your emotional and mental health.
The definition of autophobia is the fear of being alone; even just the idea of being alone causes stress and severe anxiety. The thought of being alone at home causes you sleepless nights and heart palpitations even if you’re actually not alone at the moment. This is a real phobia that affects a person’s well-being that needs to be addressed.
Persons with autophobia may live in fear of:
§ Burglars or intruders at home
§ The feeling of being unwanted or unloved
§ The fear of being abandoned by loved ones
§ Strangers coming into the house
§ Unexplained or unexpected strange noises at home
§ Having an emergency at home while being alone (a medical issue or in cases of natural disasters)
What Causes Autophobia?
The reason behind the fear of being alone is not always apparent. However, it may be influenced by a traumatic experience in the past, childhood trauma, or relationship issues. Here are some possible causes a person can develop morbid fear of solitude.
1. Negative Childhood Experiences
Like other phobias, autophobia could be caused by traumatic childhood experiences that cause this fear. It may be rooted in abandonment issues like a parent leaving, a loved one who passed away suddenly, or distressing relationships during childhood. For instance, there was a story of a child left by his mother on the streets, and he lived to fear being alone growing up.
2. Traumatic Experiences
A traumatic experience may cause autophobia. An example may be a burglar breaking in when you were home alone. Maybe you witnessed a loved one suffer or die from a medical issue alone. If not appropriately addressed, this may be a concern in a person’s life in the long run. These traumatic experiences can cause autophobia, as well as anxiety disorders or post-traumatic disorder (PTSD).
3. Other Conditions
Other individuals who have present mental health conditions like PTSD, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders have the possibility of developing a panic attack with the thought of being alone.
Symptoms of Autophobia: Do I have a fear of Being Alone?
The phobia of being alone can sometimes be overlooked because others are unaware of its presence or don’t want to talk about it. So how do you know if you have autophobia? Here are some of its symptoms:
§ Experiencing physical symptoms with the thought of being alone like sweating, chest pain, shaking, dizziness, hyperventilation, increased heart rate, or nausea
§ Changes in eating or sleeping patterns because of the obsessive worrying about being alone
§ A persistent sense of loneliness even when surrounded by other people
§ Having panic attacks or feeling anxious when left alone at home or in a social situation
§ A very strong desire to flee when alone at home or even in a public place.
§ Feeling disconnected or detached from oneself when alone
§ Stress or anxiety is starting to affect one’s life at home, school, and work or interfere with relationships
Social Impacts of Autophobia
When a person has a phobia of being alone, it may greatly affect professional, social, and intimate relationships. Here are the social impacts of autophobia:
§ Unhealthy intimate relationships, like constantly thinking that your partner is having an affair even when it’s not true or there’s no reason to suspect it. This also includes checking up on your partner all the time.
§ Parents who fear being lonely do not like their kids to form intimate relationships with friends or a partner because they are afraid their kids might leave them.
§ Attending social gatherings even when not invited
§ Stalking an ex-spouse and being unable to move on from the relationship
How Is Autophobia Diagnosed?
At a certain point in life, a person may be scared of being alone when there are significant life changes like the children moving out or the spouse passing away. However, when the person feels scared but has healthy emotional and mental coping, the fear of being alone is overcome.
A person is diagnosed as autophobic if they experience one or more symptoms mentioned above for at least six months. If these symptoms start to affect the person’s everyday life (at work, home, relationships, functioning every day), the doctor may advise them to seek mental help.
How to Overcome Fear of Being Alone
Can you overcome the fear of being alone? Yes, you can. Others have done it, and so can you. Here are some strategies you can follow to overcome the fear of being alone:
1. Meditate or Practice Mindfulness Exercises
Meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, aromatherapy, and practicing relaxation techniques help overcome the fear of being alone. Even listening to a guided meditation or using a meditation app can help you self-regulate and lower anxiety levels. However, these relaxation techniques are more of a short-term solution to take control of your anxiety or panic attacks.
2. Stick to a Routine
Sticking to a steady routine can help keep your mind off from the worries of being alone. You can keep yourself busy also so you won’t get overwhelmed with feelings of loneliness. You can also go out and meet new friends, join a club, or enroll in the gym.
Treatment: Can Autophobia Be Cured?
Just like other phobias, the fear of being alone can be cured. Seeing a mental health professional can help you manage symptoms and overcome the phobia. During therapy, your counselor may use exposure therapy, where you are faced with your fear in a safe and controlled setting.
There is also individual therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy that can help you change the way you think and feel. Therapy is beneficial to overcome fears or whatever struggle you experience in life. During therapy, you can also connect with support groups where you’ll find inspiration to be strong while gaining new friends.
If you need someone to talk to about a fear, be it autophobia or agoraphobia, schedule an appointment with Kentucky Counseling Center now. Our counselors will help you overcome fears that keep you from living your best life.