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Autophobia, also called monophobia, isolophobia, or eremophobia, is the specific phobia of isolation; a morbid fear of being egotistical, or a dread of being alone or isolated. Sufferers need not be physically alone, but just to believe that they are being ignored or unloved. Contrary to what would be implied by a literal reading of the term, autophobia does not describe a "fear of oneself". The disorder typically develops from and is associated with other anxiety disorders.
Autophobia can be associated with or accompanied by several other phobias such as agoraphobia, and is generally considered to be a part of the agoraphobic cluster. This means that autophobia has a lot of the same characteristics as certain anxiety disorders and hyperventilation disorders. The main concern of people with phobias in the agoraphobic cluster is getting help in case of emergency. This means people might be afraid of going out in public, being caught in a crowd, being alone, or being stranded.
Autophobia is not to be confused with agoraphobia (fear of being in public, or caught in large crowds), self-hatred, or social anxiety although it can be closely related to these things. It is its own phobia that tends to be accompanied by other anxiety disorders and phobias.
Autophobia is closely related to monophobia, isolophobia, and eremophobia. However, it varies slightly in definition. According to the Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary, eremophobia is a morbid fear of being isolated. In contrast, The Practitioner's Medical Dictionary defines autophobia as a morbid fear of solitude or one's self.
Autophobia can be derived from social anxiety. When people with this phobia are left alone, they will often experience panic attacks, which is a common reaction in those suffering from social anxiety. This disease can also stem from depression because when people become seriously autophobic, they start to find certain tasks and activities almost impossible to complete. This usually occurs when autophobes are faced with a possibility of going into a public place where there are lots of people or simply a place that is uncomfortable or unfamiliar to them. This phobia can also be closely related to agoraphobia, which leads to lowered self-confidence and uncertainty of their ability to finish certain activities that need to be done alone. People suffering from this phobia tend to imagine the worst possible scenario. For example, they might have a panic attack and then think that they are going to die from this event.
Another experience that doctors believe leads individuals to develop this phobia is children being abandoned, usually by their parents, when they are very young. This first causes childhood trauma that then persists to affect them as they grow up. This turns into autophobia because they are now afraid that all of the important people in their lives are going to leave or abandon them. Therefore, this particular phobia can come from behavior and experiences that these people have had when they were growing up. However, abandonment does not necessarily mean being left alone physically, this also includes being isolated financially or emotionally. Having drastic, life-altering experiences, particularly causes more trauma which makes this phobia worse. People that have very high anxiety and in this case are more “high strung,” are more susceptible to this phobia.
Although this phobia is often developed at a young age, it can develop later in life as well. Individuals sometimes develop this fear with the death of a loved one or the ending of an important relationship. Autophobia can also be described as the fear of being without a specific person. Tragic events in a person's life may create this fear of being without one specific person, but this often will eventually progress into a fear of being secluded in general.
The symptoms of autophobia vary by case. However, there are some symptoms that a multitude of people with this disease suffer from. An intense amount of apprehension and anxiety when you are alone or think about situations where you would be secluded is one of the most common indications that a person is autophobic. People with this disorder also commonly believe that there is an impending disaster waiting to occur whenever they are left alone. For this reason, autophobes go to extreme lengths to avoid being in isolation. However, people with this disease often do not need to be in physical isolation to feel abandoned. Autophobes will often be in a crowded area or group of people and feel as though they are completely secluded.
Below is a list of other symptoms that are sometimes associated with autophobia:
- Mental symptoms:
- Emotional symptoms:
- Stress over up-coming times and places where you may be alone
- Fear of being secluded
- Physical symptoms:
Autophobia is a form of anxiety that can cause a minor to extreme feeling of danger or fear when alone. There is not a specific treatment to cure autophobia as it affects each person differently. Most sufferers are treated with psychotherapy in which the amount of time that they are alone is slowly increased. There are no conclusive studies currently that support any medications being used as treatment. If the anxiety is too intense medications have been used to aid the patient in a continuation of the therapy.
It is not uncommon for sufferers to be unaware that they have this anxiety and to dismiss the idea of seeking help. Much like substance abuse, autophobia is mental and physical and requires assistance from a medical professional. Medication can be used to stabilize symptoms and inhibit further substance abuse. Group and individual therapy is used to help ease symptoms and treat the phobia.
In mild cases of autophobia, treatment can sometimes be very simple. Therapists recommend many different remedies to make patients feel as though they are not alone even when that is the case, such as listening to music when running errands alone or turning on the television when at home, even if it is just for background noise. Using noise to interrupt the silence of isolated situations can often be a great help for people suffering from autophobia.
However, it is important to remember that just because a person may feel alone at times does not mean that they have autophobia. Most people feel alone and secluded at times; this is not an unusual phenomenon. Only when the fear of being alone begins to interrupt how a person lives their daily life does the idea of being autophobic become a possibility.
In an article called “Psychogenic Hyperventilation and Death Anxiety” by Herbert R. Lazarus, M.D., and John J. Kostan, Jr., M.S.W., autophobia or monophobia was referred to as being very closely related to death anxiety, or a feeling of impending doom. A patient might feel dread so strongly because of autophobia that they may hyperventilate and feel like they may die because of it. It is also noted that patients with hyperventilation and death anxiety might also develop or have autophobia because they are so afraid of dying, getting seriously injured, or otherwise find themselves in a dire situation, that they become deathly afraid of being alone. Without somebody to help them in case they need it, autophobia-induced anxiety may occur along with other anxieties or phobias included in the agoraphobic cluster.
A comic was written on Tapastic called Autophobia in which a boy with a rocky family life navigates high school. As of November 2015, the series contains 46 episodes and 11 chapters. The series has been viewed 230.4k times, and has 3.3k followers.
A band by the name of Agoraphobic Nosebleed from the United States formed in 1994 in the Grindcore genre with a record label from Relapse Records. Current members include Jay Randall, Katherine Katz, Richard Johnson, and Scott Hull.
- Agoraphobia (fear of large crowds)
- Fear of abandonment
- Social anxiety
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Dependent Personality Disorder
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