I’m sure we have all felt a tad bit overwhelmed in large crowds, perhaps at concert with thousands of people all squished together or maybe during black Friday when everyone is out at malls trying to get the best deals. The feeling of so many bodies pressed up against each other, in some ways so close it becomes difficult to breath.
For some, the idea of being anywhere near a situation like the one just described is horrifying and provokes many feelings of fear and danger. Individuals with this sort of experience and thoughts can be said to have Enochlophobia.
Enochlophobia is the fear of crowds, and is usually tied to feelings of being in actual danger if they were to be in a crowd. This phobia is not to be mistaken to agoraphobia which is an anxiety disorder where individuals fear and avoid places or situations that would make it difficult to escape if they became panicked.
While this particular phobia is not recognized in the DSM-5, it is seen as a specific phobia and individuals diagnosed with this phobia must demonstrate a persistent fear of crowds for at least six months unrelated to any other psychological diagnosis like social anxiety. Individuals who are diagnosed with having a phobia, whether it is specific or not, must also report having immediate anxiety symptoms when exposed to the stimuli (i.e., a crowd).
What are the symptoms of Enochlophobia?
As seen with other phobias, individuals with Enochlophobia may experience a number of symptoms as a result of not only being in a crowd but possibly being in a crowd. Typically, symptoms experienced by individuals can span across three different categories: psychological, physical, and behavioral.
As mentioned earlier, Enochlophobia is tied to perceiving crowds being a source of danger thus symptoms related to this perception of danger can be seen as a result. For example, individuals may demonstrate brain fog or disassociation when in a situation where there is a crowd. You may relate to this in a smaller scale if during a situation where you have experienced panic you were unable to get a hold of your bearings, perhaps you were in shock and fully removed yourself from the situation. Additionally, irrational cognitions or thoughts may be present such as believing any instance of being in a crowd (e.g., shopping mall, concerts) will result in some form of danger. As a result of these cognitions, and individual may then be seen to react in a few other ways.
Other symptoms experienced with this phobia include physical symptoms like muscle tension, increased heart rate, and sweating. As you can imagine, feelings of distress, anxiety, and fear can manifest physically in an individual who is afraid of a particular stimuli/situation such as being in a crowd of people. Additional symptoms that can be experienced include blacking out or dizziness which can be related to heavy and quick breathing as a result of panic.
Finally, individuals with Enochlophobia may also demonstrate behavioral symptoms. The most common symptom with this phobia as well as other phobias is avoidant behaviors. If an individual is fearful of being in crowds the easiest way to not experience this distress or fear is to completely avoid them. For some situations it can be fairly easy to avoid large crowds such as not going to concerts. Additional behaviors, particularly those if the individual is in a large crowd include clinging to someone as a source of protection or grounding or simply attempting to escape the situation.
What are the causes of Enochlophobia?
Given our current society, and the major growth of cities and suburbs, you may be wondering how does one develop a fear of crowds since we are in them almost daily. There are a few ways one may develop Enochlophobia, but specifically we will be discussing the three most highly theorized causes.
One type of factor that can influence the development of Enochlophobia already having another psychological disorder such as being clinically diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. This particular disorder can be the most likely risk factor for developing a phobia since phobias are defined as a type of anxiety disorder because of the characteristics individuals present (e.g., excessive worry, fear, panic).
Additionally, traumatic experiences and the effects of living through such an experience can also assist in the development of such a phobia. While Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be a possible risk factor to developing Enochlophobia, the experience of something traumatic without being diagnosed with PTSD can also lead to an individual acquiring such a phobia.
Another possible factor that can play into an individual having a fear of crowds is genetics or biology. Similarly, to other characteristics, genes related to anxiety can be passed down from parents to children increasing the likelihood of the child becoming equally as anxious about a number of things. While there is no single gene related to being fearful of crowds, one can be more likely to develop anxiety which down the line can morph into other anxiety disorders such as the phobia Encochlophobia.
Finally, environmental factors can also have a large influence on whether or not someone is likely to develop Enochlophobia. Specifically, environmental factors include the settings we are in (e.g., homes, schools, communities) and the most influential one is typically one’s home. As you can imagine parents can have great influence on shaping an individual, similarly to their genetic input, through their behaviors. In this way, seeing and experiencing a home life with an anxious parent or one who is also fearful of crowds increase the likelihood of the child also developing similar behaviors as well as psychopathologies.
How to cope and overcome Enochlophobia?
As mentioned earlier our current world and lives place is in numerous situations with crowds, so for those individuals dealing with Enochlophobia how can they cope? Fortunately, there are a handful of methods to not only cope but potentially overcome Enchlophobia. In this article we will specifically discuss two methods, but as with any form of treatment some methods may work better or may not even work for certain individuals.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
The first and most popular form of treatment for many phobias is Cognitive-behavioral Therapy or CBT. Done with the assistance of a licensed clinician, CBT is a form of treatment that works at identifying the negative thought patterns of an individual in relation to the offensive stimuli or situation.
Specifically, the individual and the clinician work first on the identification of these negative cognitions as well as where they may come from. While a lot of work is done within the sessions such as doing role-playing or learning relaxation techniques, work can also be done outside of the sessions such as journaling. Together the pair unpack and attempt to uncover the where’s and why’s like “where/why did that decision to avoid a large crowd come from?” or “where did the thought of danger come from?” By answering these questions, the therapists works with the individual to rationalize the answers and begin the process of changing the negative thoughts to neutral or positive ones.
Additional forms of treatments are standard medications which mostly come in the form of an anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants. Commonly prescribed medications for anti-anxiety include types of Benzodiazepines and are used to combat the anxious behaviors and symptoms present in an individual that can keep them from living out their daily lives. Additionally, antidepressants can also be prescribed due to isolation that can arise from avoiding certain situations as well as feelings of depression presented as a result from having a phobia.