written by: Jennifer Gunnerson
• edited by: jen2008
• updated: 8/19/2010
Do you enjoy spending time alone? If you are one of the many people who suffer from autophobia, the answer is most likely "no". Autophobics suffer from an intense fear of being alone that can often stem from a traumatic early childhood experience.
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While enjoying some quiet time alone is a nice way to recharge and relax for some, not everyone enjoys having a little “alone time", in fact, for some, being alone is a source of extreme anxiety and can develop into the anxiety disorder that is known as autophobia. So what exactly is the definition of autophobia? The word itself is Greek in origin, combining the word “auto" which means “self" and the word “phobo" with means “fear". The literal translation is having a fear of being by oneself. This particular disorder is further defined by an irrational fear of loneliness or solitude.
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Symptoms of Autophobia
Many who suffer from autophobia experience intense anxiety at the prospect of being alone. Autophobics may rationally realize that they are not in any danger when alone, but still feel an impending sense of doom or panic at the thought. Those that suffer from this anxiety disorder may be afraid of having to deal with problems that may arise when alone, fearing that they will not be able to handle certain situations without help. For some, having a specific person near them such as a parent, a spouse, a friend or a family member is necessary to quell their fears, while others don’t need a specific person, but rather the assurance of having any person nearby, even a stranger. This dependence can become quite severe, causing an autophobic to require the company of another person to be in the room with them at all times.
The physical symptoms of autophobia can include the common symptoms associated with panic attacks such as; rapid heartbeat, trouble catching one’s breath, nausea, shaking, tingling extremities, gastrointestinal distress and lightheadedness. Emotionally, autophobics may loose confidence in dealing with social situations on their own. It is not uncommon for those suffering from autophobia to develop the belief that it is not safe to do anything on their own, or that even being alone is unsafe.
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Causes of Autophobia
The root cause of autophobia is can be attributed to several different factors. One situation believed to be a cause of autophobia is the sudden death of a loved one, such as a parent. Another root cause is believed to be the abandonment of a child by a parent. It is believed that the child may grow up to develop autophobia as a result of the deep emotional pain felt at the time of abandonment. Abuse as a child is also thought to be a factor in some cases, for instance, if a child is repeatedly left alone as a form of punishment it may lead to a fear of being alone as an adult.
It is believed that those that develop autophobia worry excessively about not being loved or about being ignored by people. Autophobics may worry about unlikely possibilities such as a potential life-threatening situation such as a violent attack or an intruder or the chance of developing a sudden and serious medical condition and not being able to reach help in time. The anxiety disorder autophobia can greatly affect the lives of those that suffer from it. With proper diagnosis, autophobia can be effectively treated through a variety of therapies.