Anthropophobia (Fear of People)
What is anthropophobia?
Anthropophobia is a fear of people. People with anthropophobia may avoid crowds, fear eye contact or worry that they are being judged. Anthropophobia is not a clinical disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), but many people consider it a specific phobia.
Like other specific phobias, anthropophobia involves intense anxiety that’s not proportional to the actual threat. Many people with specific phobias are aware that the fear is irrational. But they have difficulty controlling symptoms or intrusive, fearful thoughts.
Is there a difference between social phobia, social anxiety disorder and anthropophobia?
Anthropophobia can be part of a social anxiety disorder, but the two terms are not exactly the same. People with social anxiety disorder feel intense distress in social situations, such as going on a date or talking to a waiter. People with anthropophobia feel afraid of people, regardless of setting.
Social phobia (sociophobia) is the former name for social anxiety disorder. Someone with social anxiety disorder might not feel anxious if they are in a crowd where no one knows them. But someone with anthropophobia feels anxious in any crowd. Their fear is specific to people, not specific to social settings.
How common is anthropophobia?
Anthropophobia and other specific phobias are most common in teenagers and females. About 1 in 5 adolescents experience a specific phobia at some point. Around 1 in 10 adults experience a specific phobia in their lifetime.
Symptoms and Causes
What causes anthropophobia?
Anthropophobia doesn’t always have a clear cause. You may be more likely to develop anthropophobia if you have or have experienced:
- Betrayal from close loved ones.
- Family history of anxiety disorders.
- Hormonal imbalances.
- Problems with your adrenal glands (glands that produce stress hormones).
What are the symptoms of anthropophobia?
Many people with anthropophobia feel “anticipatory anxiety.” Anticipatory anxiety is dread, worry or fear about an upcoming event. With anthropophobia, people may worry excessively before being around other people. They may feel anxious about:
- Being judged by others.
- Being watched.
- Making eye contact.
This anxiety often causes physical symptoms. People may experience:
Diagnosis and Tests
How is anthropophobia diagnosed?
Anthropophobia does not have specific clinical diagnostic guidelines. Still, your healthcare provider may identify symptoms of anthropophobia by asking:
- Do the same social situations always cause fear or anxiety?
- Does avoiding people interfere with your day-to-day routine?
- Has the anxiety lasted six months or longer?
Sometimes, the fear of people is a symptom of another diagnosis, such as social anxiety disorder. Anthropophobia may also be closely related to taijin kyofusho. Taijin kyofusho is distress or fear of interpersonal relationships, specifically the fear of offending others. It is a culture-specific diagnosis found in Korea and Japan.
People may also experience anthropophobia along with:
Management and Treatment
Is there a cure for anthropophobia?
There is no cure for anthropophobia. But, for many people, symptoms improve with treatment. For some, the fear of people decreases enough that it no longer interferes with day-to-day life.
How is anthropophobia treated?
There is no one specific treatment for anthropophobia. Some treatments for specific phobias may help:
- Exposure therapy is often the first treatment for specific phobias. Up to 90% of people who consistently practice exposure therapy have a decrease in symptoms. Exposure therapy involves gradually introducing the specific fear into your life. You may imagine interacting with others. Later, you may practice being around small groups of people.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) involves talking with a therapist about symptoms. You learn to identify irrational thoughts and replace them with rational ones. CBT may not be as helpful as exposure therapy for people with severe phobia symptoms.
- Hypnotherapy involves guided relaxation and focused concentration. A provider guides you to a state of such intense concentration that you temporarily are unaware of your surroundings. Hypnotherapy often increases the success of phobia treatment.
- Medications may be useful for anxiety disorders or some specific phobias. For example, you might take diazepam (Valium®) or alprazolam (Xanax®) before certain events to avoid panic attacks (intense, sudden anxiety that causes physical symptoms). Medication is not right for everyone, so speak with your healthcare provider before starting a new medicine.
How can I overcome anthropophobia symptoms?
People with anthropophobia can also learn relaxation techniques. Practicing these techniques can help you lower anxiety, especially when exposed to what you are afraid of. You may:
How can I reduce my risk of anthropophobia?
There is no guaranteed way to prevent anthropophobia. If you struggle with anxious thoughts or behaviors, healthy habits may help reduce how severe your symptoms are. You may:
- Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water and limiting alcohol and caffeine.
- Eat a nutritious diet of whole grains, lean protein, healthy fat, fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise consistently.
- Sleep at least seven to eight hours nightly.
- Talk to trusted loved ones regularly to decrease your risk of social isolation.
Outlook / Prognosis
Are there long-term effects of anthropophobia?
With proper treatment, most people find that symptoms of anthropophobia improve. Without treatment, anthropophobia can increase your risk of:
What else should I ask my doctor?
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- What is the most likely cause of anthropophobia?
- What techniques can I practice at home to overcome the fear of people?
- How can I prevent symptoms from worsening?
- Will a fear of people ever go away completely?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Anthropophobia is the fear of people. It is not the same as social anxiety disorder. Instead of fearing social situations, people with anthropophobia specifically fear people. Anthropophobia may cause physical symptoms, such as rapid heartbeat, sweating or nausea. If a fear of people interferes with your daily life, speak with a healthcare provider. Treatment may include therapy, medication or practicing relaxation techniques at home.
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