Do you dread the thought that your partner may leave you? Or are you getting too anxious knowing that you have to live alone when your kids go to college? Being alone is sad, but when it has become a persistent fear, and it’s starting to affect your emotional and mental health, this is called autophobia.
The definition of autophobia is the fear of being alone; even just the idea of being alone causes stress and severe anxiety. Even when you’re not actually alone, the thought of being alone even at the comfort of your home causes you sleepless nights and heart palpitations. This is a real issue and 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 unwanted or unloved
- The fear of abandonment of loved ones
- Fear of 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.
Like other phobias, autophobia may be caused by traumatic childhood experiences that cause this fear. It may root from 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.
A traumatic experience may cause autophobia. An example may be a burglar coming when you were home alone. Maybe you experienced or witnessed a loved one undergo a medical issue while alone. If these solitude issues are not appropriately addressed, this may be a concern in a person’s life in the long run. Not only will these traumatic experiences cause autophobia, but they can also cause anxiety disorders or Post-Traumatic Disorder (PTSD) as well.
Other individuals who have present mental health conditions like PTSD, schizophrenia, 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 may sometimes be missed out because others are not aware of its presence or don’t even want to talk about it. So how do you know if you have autophobia? Here are the symptoms of autophobia:
- 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 of being alone.
- A persistent sense of loneliness even when surrounded by other people.
- Times of experiencing 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, work or interfere with relationships.
Social Impacts of Autophobia
When a person has the 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 fixating on the thought that your partner is having an affair, even when it’s not true, and there’s no reason to suspect. This also includes checking up on your partner all the time.
- Parents who have a fear of 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.
- Attends social gatherings even when not invited.
- Stalks an ex-spouse and unable to move on from the relationship.
How Is the Diagnosis of Autophobia Made?
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 may feel scared but have healthy emotional and mental coping, the fear of being alone is overcome.
The diagnosis of autophobia is this: a person has one or more symptoms experienced mentioned above for at least six months. If these symptoms are starting to affect the person’s everyday life (at work, home, relationships, functioning every day), the doctor may advice seeking mental help.
How to Overcome Fear of Being Alone
Can you overcome the fear of being alone? Of course, you can. Others have done it, and so can you. Here are some following strategies you can follow to overcome the fear of being alone:
Meditation and Mindfulness Exercise
Meditation, mindfulness exercise, deep breathing exercises, aromatherapy, and practicing relaxation techniques help overcome the fear of being lonely. 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.
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?
Yes, just like other phobias, the fear of being alone can be cured. Seeing a mental health professional can help with the management of symptoms and overcoming the phobia. During therapy, your counselor may use Exposure Therapy wherein you are faced with your fear in a safe and controlled setting.
There are 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, may it be autophobia or agoraphobia, and you need to overcome it, schedule an appointment with Kentucky Counseling Center now.