What is Anthropophobia or Fear of People?
The extreme fear of people in all situations is known as anthropophobia. The fear is not only extreme but also irrational and unwarranted in nature. When a person is anthropophobic, he or she might be afraid of people who are his or her friends and close ones and consider them as dangerous and threatening like they consider any unknown person.
Often anthropophobia or fear of people is confused other social phobias like fear of public speaking and fear of eating before others. But anthropophobia or fear of people is much more serious than other social phobias but the diagnosis if difficult. Anthropophobic people fear any social situation or society as a whole at all times. The person who has this kind of phobia knows that the fear is not rational yet the fear consumes them so much that they allow the fear to overpower their lives and the fear keeps ruling them and they avoid any social interaction. Even the least of interactions with people at school or workplace is cut off by them.
Difference Between Social Phobias and Anthropophobia
If we are to define Social phobia then we can say that the fear arises when the person faces any kind of social situations. As mentioned earlier in this article, social phobia in a person may arise when he or she is supposed to speak or perform publicly like stage fear or when a person has to eat amongst a table full of people. Other people may be afraid any social gathering or situation.
If you are suffering from any social phobia being present in a crowded place often makes you anonymous and hence you shall be less afraid or okay while travelling in a crowded train or bus. For the same situation, an anthropophobic person will be very scared and uncomfortable. Because for a person suffering from anthropophobia or fear of people any person who is close to him or her and is loving and caring towards he or she raises an equal level of fear as any stranger at a crowded place.
For an Anthropophobic person, the level of fear is high whether the person is sitting in the back seat of the hall or the person is performing on the stage. The difference between any social phobia and anthropophobia or fear of people is so minute and subtle that only strong diagnosis can help you find out what the person is exactly suffering from and only professional help can do that.
Causes of Anthropophobia or Fear of People
Anthropophobia or fear of people can develop due to various causes. Any past experience which is traumatic may raise anthropophobia in you. Being a victim of some kind of physical abuse and bullying, experiencing or witnessing a deadly crime may develop the fear of people in you. The experience could be psychological, emotional or physical. If you are already a patient of certain neurological conditions or you have a poor mental health, the fear of people may develop sooner in you.
The treatment of anthropophobia or fear of people is to be done very carefully. The treatment becomes more difficult if your mental condition is near the Autism Spectrum. The treatment should be a proper balance of solitude and social interactions to work of the fear. The disorder, Anthropophobia may also give rise from some other serious disorders like paranoia. Schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorders, bipolar disorders are some other causes of Anthropophobia. In such cases, you shall be at a greater risk to growing the phobia in you more than that can be treated.
With all the above mentioned causes, clear reasons for a person turning out to be Anthropophobic is not found yet. The good part of not having any clarity is that you need not know any reason for treating the fear. Some of the other common reasons for developing fear of people and society are:
- Interpreting some situations wrongly in your mind and developing a fear of gathering in you.
- Previous experiences with people which have gone utterly wrong may bring down your confidence and develop anthropophobia or fear of people in you.
- If you are overanxious or highly tensed at all times even at small circumstances, you might develop the phobia.
- Having adrenaline problems and certain physical weaknesses may also build the fear in you.
Signs and Symptoms of Anthropophobia or Fear of People
We all want to stay alone at some point in time due to sadness, mood swings, and other emotional reasons. These reasons could make us want to be away from people and make us stop interacting with them for some time. Now if we consider an anthropophobic person then he or she will want to be aloof from people at all times and even the slightest idea of having to be present among people might cause illnesses. The idea of being present in a gathering or having to interact with people trigger the fear in them and several symptoms are noticed immediately. Some of the most notable signs and symptoms of anthropophobia or fear of people are:
- To avoid meeting people the patient can go up to any extent and create hard situations and this is the major symptom of anthropophobia or fear of people. The patient may even think of death or of embarrassing oneself in the public and thus take up harmful ways to prevent going out.
- The patient might start panicking at the idea of meeting people. The symptoms can be noticed in the patient once he is she learns about the meeting which can be days before the actual gathering.
- As the patient begins panicking, the heart rate increases. The patient might feel claustrophobic, breathing problems may arise. The patient begins to sweat immediately; he or she might feel like getting choked. He or she might not be able to swallow food and the blood pressure may rise suddenly to extremes. The patient can also enter into a panic attack or in a more serious cases heart attack.
When such circumstances arise, the family and friends of the patient must be there to help the patient. They should be calm and proceed for immediate treatment. Even certain home remedies can be taken up to help the; patient get rid of the anthropophobia or fear of people at its early stage. Often such symptoms are ignored which might develop and grow the fear in the patient to an extent that is going to the stage of clinical depression. The patients than not only move away from gatherings but also start avoiding family and close relatives and stop going to the work place or school to be away from human interactions at all.
Tests to Diagnose Anthropophobia or Fear of People
There are no proper tests to find out anthropophobia or fear of people in the person. Certain diagnostic procedures and interviews with the patient may give you the result. The medical, psychiatric and social history of the patient is also taken into account by the doctor. Certain articles published by the American Psychiatric Association in the Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders may also help you gain knowledge about the phobia and help you identify it. This manual is also used by the insurance companies for issuing the health plans and reimbursing money for the treatment.
Treatment for Anthropophobia or Fear of People
Anthropophobia or fear of people has several treatment techniques. When the phobia is diagnosed at the early stage therapy sessions are helpful. Turning of violent thoughts into positive ones in the patient's mind is another procedure. Behavioral training like systematic desensitization or exposure therapy is also adopted where the patient is exposed to the triggers for a longer time helping him or her to adjust to the conditions.
If the anthropophobia or fear of people reaches to its extreme then the treatment might take a much longer time. You should be patient and should keep trying. You will be able to overcome any fear if you keep trying and work hard on your skills.
You can also help yourself to overcome the fear of people. Once you understand that this is just a fear that can be overcome, things will get easier for you. Putting the thought into your mind that people are not noticing the things that you are thinking they are noticing will help you get over the fear sooner. Cognitive Behaviour therapy also teaches the same thing where you learn that people shall not be noticing which you might think that they can notice and make fun about you.
Other professional help like hypnotherapy can be persued where the doctor finds out the root of the problem and then treat you accordingly. Talk therapy is another way of coping with anthropophobia or fear of people where the family and friends can be supportive to the patient. Exposing the patient to the triggers for a longer time is the other process.
One of the best therapies is the Morita Therapy. This therapy was founded in Japan. This therapy helps you to find your fear and then help you fight the fear and not push it aside. The therapists interact with the patients by talk therapy and help to overcome the situations so that the patients learn to interact with people.
Relaxation Techniques to Treat Anthropophobia or Fear of People
To reduce the anxiety caused by anthropophobia or fear of people or to handle the fear you must learn the relaxation techniques. At various stages, these techniques will help you get through your fear. With regular practice, you can deal with Anthropophobia. A few of the relaxation techniques that can be adopted are:
- The progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) for anthropophobia or fear of people is the technique where you consciously tense up your muscles from the top of your body to the bottom and then relax it to know how it feels when the muscles get relaxed.
- The best practice of learning to relax is meditation. Here you sit being comfortable and you remain quiet and try to focus on a single thing, focusing on your breathing in the beginning. This clears your mind, controls your thoughts and helps you to overcome fear.
- Building in the feeling of warmth of heaviness all throughout your body so that you can relax your body. This method is known as autogenics. The process is a meditative practice where you develop synchronized breathing and repeating the process in phrases and learn the course in about 3 months.
Prevention of Anthropophobia or Fear of People
When you start experiencing unnecessary and irrational fear within your mind then you should immediately go for professional help. Also seeing someone having the anthropophobia or fear of people may develop the tendencies in the children too. Thus you should be more concerned if you have children. By treating the fear in you at the early stage you can prevent it from passing it to your children. Often genetics play a vital role of passing down tendencies of developing the phobia.
Risk Factors for Anthropophobia or Fear of People
As said earlier, if the mental health condition of the patient is weak then the fear of people may develop in the patient very soon. The patient being in the autism spectrum may be prone to this disorder. Other mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may increase the risk factor developing anthropophobia or fear of people. Proper care is required to treat such patients. Balancing the time equally for solitude and social interactions is the best way to treat such patients
Complications of Anthropophobia or Fear of People
Anthropophobia or fear of people is very harmful to the patients even though it may seem like nothing for the people who are not affected by it. All aspects of life may get disrupted and devastated due to this fear. Some of the complications that may arise are:
- Isolating oneself from all kind of social gathering and interactions. The patient might stop going to the workplace or school which will in return affect the academic and professional life of the patient. If the patient is a child he or she will never learn to interact with others which will affect in his or her future and stand in the way of progression.
- Anxiety disorders may accompany anthropophobia or fear of people and the patient might enter into a depression.
- The patients may turn into addicts and get related to substance abuse.
- The patient may also develop suicidal tendencies.
Coping with Anthropophobia or Fear of People
You can also try to cope up with anthropophobia or fear of people yourself. You need to clear your mind and figure out what the people mean to you and what is their relation with you. As you develop your thinking your fear will slowly disappear. There are two ways in which you can change and develop your thinking habits, they are:
- Progressive exposure can help in coping with anthropophobia or fear of people. If you are afraid of people and interacting with them you will only keep on avoiding them and hence allow the fear to grow in you. To change this you have to act exactly the opposite and allow yourself to get involved in interactions and you have to be present in social gatherings. This process will only work when you give enough effort. You might encounter anxiety in the beginning but slowly this exposure will help you overcome your fear and will teach you how to deal with people.
- Another way to cope with anthropophobia or fear of people is by correcting your thoughts. Along with learning how to expose yourself to people you also have to learn to control your thought and change your negative thoughts to positive. You have to identify how irrational your fear is and then whenever the fear tries to overpower you have to explain to your mind that the imaginations are irrational and have to start thinking rationally immediately. As you go on doing this process consciously the fear will start fading away with practice.
If you are undergoing a clinical treatment, then having patience and working as hard with your therapist will give you positive results sooner. With your full participation, your psychologist will be able to treat you faster and the process will be easier for you to go through
Recovery from Anthropophobia or Fear of People
The period of time that a patient might need to recover from anthropophobia or fear of people depends on of the treatment method suggested by the doctors and the stage of the phobia. Your psychologist will also help you learn fit the phobia might relapse in you and how long approximately you will need to recover from the fear.