While there are some good things about being alone, there are times when it is not the most pleasant experience. I’m sure many of us have experienced being at home at night alone and hearing our homes moan and groan. Perhaps we worry about robbers or intruders sneaking into our homes. Just as unpleasant, spending large amounts of time alone can be a terrible experience and perhaps was for a number of us during the recent lockdowns.
Also known as Autophobia, Monophobia is the fear of being alone. A type of anxiety disorder, phobias are defined by having an illogical fear of something that isn’t truly harmful such as being alone. As you can imagine, this can look like a number of things and as such individuals with Monophobia can fear situations such as being apart from a certain person, feeling isolated or ignored, living alone/being home alone, and being in public by yourself.
To be diagnosed with Monophobia, a licensed clinician must conduct an analysis of an individual’s history of symptoms and the severeness of the phobias impact on one’s everyday life. This analysis is incredibly important as it is also used to decide whether or not symptoms experienced are due to the said phobia or another psychopathology. In addition to these criteria, individuals much have experienced symptoms for a minimum of six months.
What are the symptoms of Monophobia?
The exposure to a fear creates a number of reactions or symptoms in an individual. For people with Monophobia, this is also the case and because it is classified as an anxiety disorder many of the symptoms experienced are tied to anxiety. Additionally, it should be noted that each individual may present a number of symptoms or a few and these symptoms can vary from individual to individual.
Psychologists and licensed clinicians have categorized symptoms into three areas:
As mentioned previously, Monophobia is under the anxiety disorders umbrella thus anxiety symptoms are almost always present. These symptoms typically look like experiencing intense anxiety or panic attacks if the individual finds themselves in a situation where they are alone or are about to be. Another critical component of Monophobia, and phobias, is the presence of an irrational fear and negative cognitions related to the fear. With the fear of being alone, individuals may have negative associations to being alone like being alone is associated with danger.
Another form of symptoms that can be present in individuals when experiencing being alone include physical reactions. Once again, these symptoms are common for anxiety as well as when we are generally exposed to anything that is distressing or elicits fear. In sum, physical symptoms can include dizziness, fainting, nausea, or difficulty breathing.
Finally, behavioral symptoms are another form and are typically defined as avoidant behaviors. As the name states, these behaviors are any action taken to avoid experiencing a certain situation or feeling. With Monophobia, this can include doing anything possible to avoid being alone or isolated and as such these individuals will never be alone at home or even go run errands alone. Additionally, individuals may demonstrate difficulty maintaining relationships in general or if they do have relationships, they are most likely unhealthy ones.
What are the causes of Monophobia?
At this point you may simply be thinking, how does one even get Monophobia? Fortunately, and unfortunately, the answer is not simple and can be quite complex. Like many diagnoses, there is not true single cause for Monophobia rather there can be multiple factors that can be present and interact with one another increasing the likelihood of developing this fear of being alone. There are three main factors, psychologists and licensed clinicians have identified as potential causes of developing Monophobia: Genetics, psychology, and one’s environment.
An important consideration for why someone may have Monophobia is their family history or one’s genetics. Particularly when reviewing these two, one is looking for the presence of anxiety in genes as this can be passed down. As a result of this, an individual can become more likely to developing Monophobia because they have these genes associated to anxiety and increased susceptibly to stress.
Another factor that can lead to the development of Monophobia are psychological ones. While this does not include other psychological diagnoses, as to be diagnosed with phobia other psychopathologies cannot be present, traumatic experiences can certainly result in acquiring a phobia. Perhaps a young child experienced being alone in an apartment for days or weeks and as an adult suffers tremendous distress from being alone. Another scenario may not be as extreme but can be just as traumatic depending on the individual thus no we cannot say any single situation or experience has a direct cause for the development of Monophobia.
A third possible cause are environmental factors which includes the settings or places and people in our everyday lives and their influence on who we become. The environments we grow up in and live in have a pretty great influence on us and as such can increase the likelihood of an individual developing certain behaviors or beliefs. In phobias, these influences won’t directly cause someone to develop Monophobia, but it can influence an individual to develop anxious tendencies and/or cognitions such as believing there are dangers to being alone.
How to cope and overcome Monophobia?
It can be incredibly challenging having a phobia like Monophobia and can heavily impact one’s well-being and quality of life. Thus, how does one cope and overcome? Are there treatment options for those suffering with Monophobia? Fortunately, there are treatments options for individuals which can be individualized from person to person for best outcomes. Here we will discuss treatment and coping options, one of which requires a licensed clinician and another that can be learned on one’s own.
A form of treatment for Monophobia are medications like anti-anxiety and/or antidepressant medications. These medications are commonly prescribed due to Monophobia’s classification as an anxiety disorder and experienced symptoms such as panic attacks and feelings of anxiety. Additionally, antidepressants or SSRIs are another type of medication that can be prescribed. For individuals dealing with a psychological disorder, it is typical to develop feelings of self-loathing or have low self-esteem due to the impairment the disorder can have on one’s life. As a result of these feelings and perceptions, depression can quickly follow further lowering quality of life and well-being.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Coping strategies are a supplementary method of treatment that can be done oneself as a way to relax or get through a given situation. Progressive Muscle Relaxation or PMR is one techniques therapist can give to individuals as a method to cope and handle experiences of anxiety related to the given fear. This relaxation technique is broadly defined as exercises used to alleviate disturbing and disruptive emotional and physical reactions to a stressor such as forms of breathing and visualization exercises. More specifically, PMR is an exercise in which one increases and releases tension throughout the body working to relieve physical stress and calm the mind. For stressful situations, such as being exposed to a fear, stress can be carried in the body and can also throw us into panic and with this technique and individual can work themselves out of anxious states.