Enochlophobia (Fear Of Crowds)

People with enochlophobia (fear of crowds) are unable to tolerate large groups of people and may experience increased anxiety at the thought of being in a crowd.

What is Enochlophobia?

Classified as a social phobia, enochlophobia (fear of crowds) is extremely incapacitating for sufferers. Also known as demophobia and ochlophobia, enochlophobia causes people to react with extreme anxiety if faced with crowds or large groups of people.

In most cases, people with enochlophobia will avoid settings in which large crowds are likely to be present. Concerts and festivals, for example, are events which would not be suitable for someone suffering from enochlophobia.

While enochlophobic individuals will often avoid large-scale events, the condition also has an effect on their day-to-day activities. They may choose a small working environment, for example, and avoid promotions or job offers in order to remain in a manageable location.

In some cases, enochlophobia can make it difficult for people to get to work at all. If a patient works in a town or city center, for example, the sheer number of people around may make their commute increasingly difficult.

Closely linked to agoraphobia, enochlophobia can be isolating for sufferers. Typically, individuals with Enochlophobia will isolate themselves so that they are not exposed to large crowds and this often means turning down social events, such as weddings and birthday parties.

In order for patients to be diagnosed with enochlophobia, various conditions must be met. As well as having a fear of crowds which is disproportionate to the threat posed, the fear must also have a negative impact on the patient’s activities, be persistent in nature and have occurred for a period of more than six months.

What are the symptoms of enochlophobia?

As well as having an intense fear of crowds, people with enochlophobia will often do anything they can to avoid them. If they are suddenly confronted by a large group of people, they may experience increased anxiety and will often attempt to leave the situation as quickly as possible.

Depending on the nature of the condition, sufferers can have various triggers. While some people with enochlophobia will manage moderate crowds if they are able to remove themselves from the situation quickly, other people with enochlophobia cannot even think about being in a crowd without feeling anxious.

When a person’s condition is triggered, an intense feeling of anxiety will wash over them. This is often accompanied by other feelings, such as:

  • Feelings of terror
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid pulse
  • Sweating
  • Fainting
  • Trembling
  • Feelings of despair
  • Shaking
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Hypervigilance

What causes enochlophobia?

Although enochlophobia is not uncommon, the exact cause of the condition is unknown. It is believed that sufferers have a genetic disposition to social anxiety but that an external event is often the trigger for the development of the condition. The following scenarios may be causative in terms of enochlophobia (fear of crowds):

  • Fear of embarrassment
  • Previous negative experience
  • Existing shyness or social anxiety

If a person dreads being judged or fears ridicule, they may grow to fear large crowds. An individual may assume that they will be subjected to judgment from numerous people and that their risk of being embarrassed will be increased. In some cases, individuals may worry that they will be unable to take part in group activities and will, therefore, feel embarrassed or ashamed. Due to the risk of being embarrassed in this type of environment, the person begins to fear the crowd itself and enochlophobia develops.

Alternatively, a previous negative or traumatic event involving crowds can be the precursor to enochlophobia. Even if this previous incident did not cause serious physical damage, the psychological trauma can result in enochlophobia. If a young child becomes separated from a parent or caregiver in a crowd, for example, they may develop enochlophobia in later life.

While these experiences can certainly give rise to enochlophobia, more indirect exposure to negative events can also result in phobias occurring. If an individual hears about a negative event involving crowds or sees video footage of something going wrong in a crowded setting, this can be enough to trigger enochlophobia, even if the person was not actually present at the time of the incident.

Individuals with existing anxiety problems, particularly social anxiety, may be more likely to develop enochlophobia. In some cases, these anxiety problems can cause people to want to isolate themselves and being in a crowd can be extremely traumatic for them. Although the root problem is the social anxiety, enochlophobia can occur as a secondary issue.

Can enochlophobia be treated?

Patients with enochlophobia can obtain professional help and can improve their condition. In many cases, a fear of crowds can be reduced or completely eliminated with the appropriate therapies.

Individuals with enochlophobia may be prescribed anti-anxiety medication as this can help to reduce their anxiety levels and enable them to cope more appropriately in an uncomfortable setting. However, these medications cannot be used to target enochlophobia directly, so additional treatment is often needed.

In order to reduce the patient’s fears, the following treatment methods may be used:

  • Group therapy
  • Exposure therapy
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Psychotherapy

These forms of therapy have been shown to be successful in reducing phobias but patients must find the right treatment for them. Some individuals may find hypnotherapy to be more effective, while others may prefer cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In some cases, enochlophobia can be treated with a mix of therapies, but patients should always tell their therapist if they are receiving treatment elsewhere.

If patients are unsure why they are experiencing Enochlophobia, it can be useful to identify the cause of their phobia. Often, patients feel less fear once they realize why they developed the phobia and this can assist them during the recovery process.

In some cases, however, there may be no clear reason why the patient has developed enochlophobia. If so, this should not prevent the treatment from taking place. Therapists are still able to work with patients and can encourage them to interpret frightening situations in a different way and to manage their response in order to reduce anxiety and panic.

Preventing enochlophobia (fear of crowds)

Preventing enochlophobia can be difficult due to its complex nature. However, if individuals are exposed to known causative factors, action could be taken to prevent enochlophobia from occurring. Rather than letting a negative event result in a life-long fear, for example, the incident should be addressed straightaway, as this could prevent traumatic memories from taking root. As a result, it may be possible for people to reduce the risk of enochlophobia occurring.