Eremophobia: The Fear of Being Alone

Eremophobia is defined as the excessive or irrational fear towards solitude or the irrational fear of being alone. It is also known as Autophobia, which is a broader term for the fear of isolation, fear of being egotistical or the dread or anxiety of being alone.  Eremophobia is linked with agoraphobia and other social phobias, though in this case, the fear is not of people themselves, it is the idea that the person will be left alone/abandoned.

person alone on the side of a cliff

What causes Eremophobia?

In most cases, the condition is derived from past traumatic experiences, normally stemming from childhood. For example, if a child is abandoned by their parents, this affects their relationships later on in life because they believe those important to them will leave them. Bullying in childhood can also be another factor, in which the person has no friends and so will cling to the friends they make in adulthood.

In social situations, the person with Eremophobia might not want their friend or family member to leave them alone because they feel they will be abandoned. This may result in anxiety attacks, which highlight the difference between a normal fear and an irrational fear because the person reacts to the danger in a way that is disproportionate to the situation. So, it can be said that Eremophobia is a type of social phobia because the person is afraid of being left alone or left to socialize with people outside of their known social group.

Symptoms of Eremophobia

Physical symptoms

  • Eremophobia is akin to social phobias and so presents physical symptoms similar to those of social phobias. This includes increased heart rate, increased breathing, excessive sweating, high muscles tension, headaches, stomach pain, dizziness, nausea, hot and cold flashes, numbness or tingling sensations, dry mouth, and feelings of suffocation.

Emotional symptoms

  • Emotionally, the person suffering from Eremophobia will react to upcoming or present social situations stressfully, because they are scared at the thought of being alone in unfamiliar environments.
  • Another emotional response is when the person has a fear of being secluded. This may cause them to cling to their friend or relative in social situations.

Mental symptoms

  • An obsession with their perceived loneliness- the person often thinks or expresses sentiments about their fear.
  • They always have negative views on situations, and always think about their fear in the extremes. For example, a person left alone in a social situation might think that because they are alone in this moment of time, they will be alone for the rest of their life and will probably die alone too. In such situations, these thoughts worsen and can lead to anxiety attacks.
  • The person fails to think clearly
  • The person has a fear of losing their mind or the ability to rationalize.

Can Eremophobia be treated?

As with most phobias, the best course of treatment is psychotherapy. Generally, the subject slowly exposed to situations where they are forced to experience being alone and are taught methods to help them overcome their fears. When placed in these situations, the therapist may recommend breathing techniques to help with relaxation or even listening to music as a means of coping as these help the subject momentarily forget their fear or even distract them from their phobia. In extreme cases, medication is prescribed, but the best solution is psychotherapy.

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