Autophobia (Fear of Being Alone)
What is autophobia (fear of being alone)?
People who have autophobia have an irrational, extreme fear of being alone. A person may experience this fear when they’re alone.
Some people may have autophobia even when they’re with other people. In this case, the fear centers on worries about isolation. They may feel alone in a crowd. Or they may worry about people leaving them, or having to go home and be alone.
Other terms for fear of being alone include:
What’s the difference between fear of being alone and loneliness?
When you’re lonely, you feel unhappy or sad about the quantity or quality of social connections in your life.
When you have autophobia, you feel anxious or scared when you’re alone or when you think about being alone. You feel this way regardless of how many loved ones and friends are in your life.
What is a phobia?
Phobias are a common anxiety disorder. They cause you to become afraid of something that isn’t truly harmful. Autophobia is a specific phobic disorder. With it, you’re fearful about situations where you’re alone.
How common is autophobia (monophobia)?
It’s hard knowing exactly how many people have a specific phobia, like autophobia. Many people may keep this fear to themselves or may not recognize they have it. We do know that about 1 in 10 American adults and 1 in 5 teenagers will deal with a specific phobia disorder at some point in their lives, though.
Symptoms and Causes
Who is at risk for autophobia (monophobia)?
Risk factors for autophobia and specific phobic disorders include:
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD): People with BPD have an intense fear of being rejected, abandoned or alone. This mental disorder makes it difficult to regulate emotions. The resulting mood swings can be hard on relationships.
- Dependent personality disorder (DPD): DPD causes you to feel incapable of taking care of yourself. You may be afraid to be alone because you feel helpless.
- Family history: Growing up with a parent or loved one who has a phobia or anxiety disorder may make you prone to the same, or different, worries.
- Gender: Specific phobic disorders affect more females than males.
- Genetics: A gene change may make certain people more prone to anxiety disorders and phobias.
- Other phobias: People with autophobia may have other phobias like agoraphobia. With agoraphobia, you may be afraid to leave your house unless someone is with you.
- Panic disorder: Panic attacks cause a racing heart rate, noncardiac chest pain and other symptoms that may feel like a heart attack. Someone with panic disorder may fear having a panic attack while they’re alone and no one can help.
Why do I have a fear of being alone?
Phobias often start in childhood. Some people can trace their fear of being alone to a negative or traumatic experience.
Potential autophobia causes include:
- Being ignored, uncared for or feeling abandoned.
- Divorce or loss of a parent during childhood.
- Getting separated from a loved one in a crowd or other public setting.
- Having a panic attack, injury or another emergency, like a home break-in or mugging without someone to help.
- Witnessing a traumatic incident without someone to support you.
What are autophobia (monophobia) symptoms?
People who experience specific phobic disorders like autophobia are usually aware that the fear isn’t rational. Still, they’re unable to control their physical reactions when they find themselves in certain situations.
Autophobia affects everyone differently. You may feel unsafe unless you’re with other people. Being alone may bring on intense feelings of sadness, dread or anxiety.
If you have a fear of being alone, symptoms may also include:
Diagnosis and Tests
How is autophobia (monophobia) diagnosed?
Autophobia (monophobia) isn’t a recognized phobic disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Still, a mental health professional like a psychologist can diagnose phobias based on symptoms.
Criteria for a specific phobic disorder diagnosis include:
- Fear that persists for at least six months.
- Intense feelings of fear or anxiety when you’re alone, despite knowing you aren’t in danger.
- Immediate onset of symptoms when you find yourself alone or think about being alone.
- Anxiety or fear that causes you to avoid being alone.
- Extreme symptoms that interfere with your ability to work and enjoy life.
Management and Treatment
What is the treatment for autophobia (monophobia)?
Exposure therapy successfully helps most people overcome specific phobic disorders. Your healthcare provider may also use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
These two methods of psychotherapy (talk therapy) focus on:
- Relaxation techniques, like deep breathing exercises and meditation, to help you manage symptoms.
- Examining the root cause of the fear.
- Learning ways to counter negative thoughts about being alone so you gradually understand that being alone isn’t scary or dangerous.
- Slowly getting used to being alone. You may start with a goal of being alone for 15 minutes every day. Then, you can lengthen that time as the weeks progress.
Anti-anxiety medicines or blood pressure drugs like beta-blockers may help temporarily as you work to overcome the fear of being alone. You might not need medications after you complete therapy.
What are the complications of autophobia (monophobia)?
It isn’t practical to expect someone to always be with you. It can affect your self-esteem, career, relationships and social life. You may find yourself staying in an unhealthy or even abusive relationship to avoid being alone. You may demand that friends or family don’t leave, which can harm relationships. Or you may obsessively check up on a partner out of fear of being left.
In addition, autophobia increases your risk for:
When should I call the doctor?
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
- Panic attacks.
- Persistent anxiety that interferes with daily life or sleeping.
- Signs of depression or substance use problems.
What questions should I ask my doctor?
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- What’s causing this phobia?
- What’s the best treatment for me?
- Should I try exposure therapy?
- How long will I need therapy?
- Can medications help?
- Should I watch for signs of complications?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Fear of being alone (autophobia, or monophobia) can have a negative impact on your relationships and your ability to work. Phobias are treatable and not something you need to live with. Psychotherapies like exposure therapy and CBT can help you overcome this fear so you can enjoy your own company more.
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