Patients with Autophobia fear being alone or abandoned and often need other people around them in order to feel safe and secure.
Characterized as a fear of abandonment, Autophobia can also be described as a fear of being alone, isolated or lonely. Typically, people with Autophobia feel unable to cope alone and require another person or people to be present in order to feel safe.
In some instances, patients with Autophobia may identify a particular ‘safe’ person who they require to be present, such as a partner or parent. Alternatively, other patients with Autophobia may simply feel the need to be near people they know in order to feel less anxious.
For some patients with Autophobia, they may fear being physically alone. Even being alone in a familiar location, such as one’s own home, can be extremely distressing for patients with Autophobia. If patients are in a public location but are surrounded by strangers, this can also trigger fears of isolation.
Whilst the fear of physical isolation can be a big part of Autophobia (fear of abandonment), the phobia can also refer to the fear of being unloved, ignored or socially isolated. Although patients may have people physically near them, they may dread being ignored or overlooked. Whilst this may not be an accurate assessment of the situation, the patient’s fear is often overwhelming and all-encompassing.
As Autophobia is the fear of being abandoned, patients may feel more comfortable in situations when they can choose to be alone. However, if they are forced to be alone or have no one they can turn to for assistance, feelings of fear, panic and anxiety may occur.
Patients with Autophobia will often try to avoid situations in which they will be alone. They will go out with a partner, rather than avoid staying at home alone, for example. Alternatively, they may plead with a partner, family member or friend to stay with them, rather than leaving them alone.
In most cases, patients with Autophobia will begin to experience increased anxiety when they think about being alone and may worry about future instances in which they are required to be alone.
When a person with Autophobia is faced with being alone, they experience extreme fear. In many instances, patients will experience increased anxiety or a panic attack when they are alone and this may exacerbate their fears. These symptoms may include:
As well as having a significant impact on the physical and psychological health of the patient, Autophobia can also have a devastating effect on their relationships. When patients with Autophobia identify a ‘safe’ person or ‘safe’ people, these people often face great pressures. The patient will attempt to be with them at all times and may require more reassurance from them than is usual.
Furthermore, the patient’s social and work life tends to suffer. If patients are unable to meet with friends due to a fear of being abandoned or unable to attend work due to their symptoms, they face further isolation.
Whilst patients with Autophobia fear being alone and abandoned, they often push friends and colleagues away, while trying to draw a small group of people even closer to them. When these people are unable to cope with the demands being placed on them by the patient, they may feel the need to break away and end their involvement, thus leading to the perceived abandonment the patient feared.
Although the causes of Autophobia are unconfirmed, many people believe the condition stems from a childhood trauma. If a young child loses a parent at a young age, either due to a death or a divorce, they may feel abandoned and alone. This trauma can reassert itself as Autophobia in later life.
Alternatively, patients may develop Autophobia as a result of non-physical abandonment. If a child is emotionally neglected, for example, they may feel unloved, unwanted and effectively abandoned. If they fear this happening again, they may develop Autophobia.
Of course, a traumatic issue doesn’t have to occur in childhood in order for Autophobia to occur. If an adult goes through a divorce or experiences the death of someone close to them, they may experience the same feelings of abandonment and could develop Autophobia. Although it is more common for a loss during childhood to result in Autophobia, it is possible for traumas during adulthood to trigger the phobia.
Although patients with Autophobia can be treated, successful treatment is often complex. In general, it is necessary to identify the cause of the patient’s condition, so that their fears can be alleviated and their confidence increased.
The aim of treatment is to enable the patient to realize that they can cope alone, both physically and emotionally.
Patients with Autophobia often lack self-confidence and may feel disgust or hatred towards oneself. Therapists will often work with patients in order to reduce these feelings of self-hatred and build self-esteem. As the patient feels able to try things alone, their confidence will grow and they will feel more able to enter situations which once provoked their fear response.
Psychotherapy and hypnotherapy can be particularly effective in treating Autophobia but patients may often be prescribed medication as well. As Autophobia affects the day-to-day lives of sufferers, reducing their anxiety levels can help them to cope more effectively and can make it easier for patients to face potentially triggering situations.
Often, the patient’s close family and friends are involved in their treatment. Therapists may advise patients to discuss limitations with their immediate family, for example, and request that loved ones do not give in to unreasonable demands made by the patient.
Autophobia has an impact on every part of a patient’s life and can be extremely debilitating. Due to the severity of the phobia, patients are generally advised to seek help as soon as they begin to experience symptoms of the condition. Once treatment has begun, patients can successfully re-learn to cope alone and can reduce their fear of abandonment.
As Autophobia is often caused by emotional, psychological, sexual or physical abuse, preventing the condition relies on stopping abuse from happening. By removing a child from a negligent or abusive caregiver, it reduces their chance of suffering subsequent conditions, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Autophobia.
Furthermore, adults who are aware that they struggle with the fear of abandonment may be able to seek treatment before a phobia occurs. By educating adults of the risk factors of Autophobia, individuals may be pro-active and seek professional help before the symptoms of Autophobia emerge.