Autophobia: the fear of being alone

There are those who enjoy solitude and those who avoid it. There are people who seek moments of stillness and reunion with themselves and others for whom this is a real torture. For the latter, loneliness is a punishment and company, more than a pleasure, ends up becoming a necessity. It is autophobia, an evil of our times that leads us to experience high levels of anxiety if we are alone.

What comes to mind when you have a day off on your schedule with no plans, meetings, or social activities? Do you consider it an opportunity to rest and dedicate yourself? Or, on the contrary, do you panic and start looking for someone to share time with? There are many people who are uncomfortable being alone, but for a small percentage this discomfort reaches pathological levels.

What is autophobia?

The term autophobia means 'fear of oneself'. But nevertheless, In this condition, you do not fear your own presence, but rather someone else's absence. That is, there is an inability to be alone.

It is a disorder categorized as a specific phobia, so its symptoms are those of this type of disorder:

  • You experience a intense and irrational fear of being alone or at the idea of ​​being able to be in the near future.
  • The person avoids being alone by all means and, if he does not succeed, he endures this situation at the cost of tremendous discomfort.
  • The fear and anxiety are disproportionate. They even affect the individual's daily functioning. So, your life may be affected socially, personally and at work.
  • Symptoms last for at least six months.

The fear of being alone is a characteristic of this age in which we live hyperconnected.

Keep reading: Discover the benefits of loneliness

How does it manifest?

In addition to the above symptoms, typical of autophobia, it is an anxiety disorder and, as such, it manifests itself in various aspects. Thus, the following conditions usually occur:

  • At the cognitive level, dysfunctional thoughts appear associated with being alone. The person may believe that they are in danger and that there is no one who can help them in case of need. You may think that you will be attacked, that you will have an accident or that you will die. But there is also a certain component of fear of being ignored or rejected, since it is usually someone with a great need for approval.
  • At the physiological level somatic symptoms appear: tachycardia, palpitations, sweating, dizziness and various pain.
  • Finally, at the behavioral level, who suffers from autophobia avoids loneliness and escapes from it as soon as possible and by any means.

Find out more: Do you know the side effects of loneliness?

What are the causes of autophobia?

The causes of autophobia are not entirely clear and can vary depending on the specific case. It is frequent that, at the origin, direct past experiences are found in which the person lived loneliness as a dangerous situation. For example, if you suffered some damage from not having anyone around.

It is also common for fear to be triggered by vicarious learning. This is after observing others suffer the negative consequences of loneliness.

On the other hand, it is an evil of our time, although it is not present with such intensity. Although we live in an individualistic, competitive society that urges us to be independent, we also we are immersed in a culture that does not favor connection with oneself.

We are used to frenetic rhythms and overly stimulating environments. New technologies and electronic devices lead us to always be in contact with others or distracted by external information. Therefore, we do not usually listen to, look at or know each other.

We are so little used to being really alone with ourselves that when it happens we can become uncomfortable. In the case of autophobia, this discomfort turns into real fear.

The origin of autophobia is not always clear and the psychological approach must be made to avoid complications.

Learning to be alone is essential

The consequences of autophobia go beyond the discomfort and anxiety that it generates in the person. The inability to be alone can lead us to establish harmful relationships of emotional dependence. It can also damage our emotional ties due to the excessive need or demand for constant company.

The main treatment for autophobia is live exposure. That is, gradually exposing the person to situations that imply being alone and gradually increasing the level of demand.

It is also important to carry out a cognitive restructuring of dysfunctional thoughts to replace them with more adjusted and appropriate ones. Similarly, it may be helpful for the person to learn some arousal control technique to regulate anxiety.

In sum, being alone is a common day-to-day circumstance that we must be able to tolerate. But not only that; loneliness is a great opportunity to connect with ourselves and improve emotional health. Therefore, it is interesting to take advantage of and enjoy those moments.