An Overview of Enochlophobia

Fear of Crowds is Known as Enochlophobia

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In This Article

Enochlophobia refers to the fear of crowds. Not everyone who feels uncomfortable in a crowd lives with enochlophobia. Rather, this phobia involves irrational thoughts and behaviors that are excessive in relation to the actual danger in a situation.

In other words, if you have enochlophobia, you are unable to explain your fear and feel helpless to control it. You might even be at the point of completely avoiding crowds of people or places where you fear there may be crowds.

And, if you do find yourself trapped in a crowd situation, you probably experience extreme physical, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms that you feel powerless to manage.

There's no single known cause of enochlophobia; rather, it might be connected to crowd-related trauma, a tendency to worry, or even genetic factors.

The important thing is that this phobia can have a severely limiting effect on your life, since crowds are very much a part of life today. What's more, you can't always predict when you might find yourself in a crowd, so you might notice that your fear becomes generalized to many situations.

Now, let's talk a bit more in-depth about what enochlophobia involves and what you can do about it.

Symptoms

The symptoms of enochlophobia look very much like the symptoms of other anxiety disorders. They generally fall under three categories: your bodily reaction (physical), your thoughts (cognitive), and your avoidance or escape (behaviors).

Physical Symptoms

Below are some of the common physical symptoms of enochlophobia:

  • shaking
  • shortness of breath
  • increased heart rate
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • heart palpitations
  • sensation of being suffocated
  • muscle tension
  • dilated pupils
  • sweating
  • headache
  • stomach pain
  • dizziness
  • tremors
  • blacking out
  • panic attack

Cognitive Symptoms

Below are some of the common cognitive symptoms of enochlophobia:

Behavioral Symptoms

Below are some of the common behavioral symptoms of enochlophobia:

  • crying
  • clinging to someone
  • escaping the situation
  • avoiding situations (e.g., church, concert, mall)

One way to get a better understanding of which symptoms you experience is to keep a logbook, diary, or journal in which you write down situations that cause you anxiety and what symptoms you notice. This way, you'll have a better understanding of your own symptoms if you do choose to seek out treatment.

Diagnosis

Enochlophobia is a not a recognized disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). However, it may be considered to be a type of specific phobia, and may be related to other diagnoses such as agoraphobia and social anxiety disorder.

In order to be diagnosed as a specific phobia, your fear of crowds would need to have persisted for at least six months and not be due to another diagnosis such as social anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Causes

What causes enochlophobia? If you have a fear of crowds and are asking yourself this question, it is true that there is no single cause. However, there are certain factors that are more likely to be causal when it comes to this phobia.

Below are some of these factors:

  • experiencing trauma while in a crowd (e.g., being trapped or injured in a crowd at a concert)
  • seeing someone else experience trauma in a crowd (e.g., watching someone else become trapped or injured in a crowd)
  • becoming lost in a crowd as a child, or being separated from your parents
  • a tendency toward worrying too much or having negative thoughts
  • growing up with overprotective parents
  • a genetic predisposition

Related Disorders

While there is no specific diagnosis of enochlophobia, there are several disorders that may be considered related. These are listed below.

Specific Phobia

Enochlophobia might be diagnosed as a specific phobia if it meets the criteria in the DSM-V. A specific phobia is the unrealistic or extreme fear of a situation, setting, or thing. Common examples include a fear of heights, flying, snakes, germs, etc. With a specific phobia, you know that your fear is out of proportion to the situation but feel helpless to control your anxious reaction. In addition, even thinking about an upcoming situation where you might face your phobia causes anxiety.

Specific phobias generally develop in childhood or adolescence and last a lifetime if not treated. These disorders are more common in women and many people have more than one phobia.

Ochlophobia & Demophobia

Ochlophobia is the fear of mobs. It is not a specific diagnosable illness but rather a term used to describe this fear. Similarly, demophobia is a fear of masses of people.

Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is only diagnosed along with panic disorder and refers to the fear of being in a place where it will be difficult to escape if you were to have a panic attack, such as a crowd, bus, subway, bridge, elevator, theatre, etc. The fear is that if you become distressed, there won't be any way to escape or get help.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder refers to the fear of being embarrassed or judged by people. It can be generalized and apply to all situations or specific to performance situations only.

While you won't ever receive a diagnosis of enochlophobia, just knowing that what you are experiencing has a name might be helpful. Whether you choose to see a mental health professional or not, learning about the different disorders can help you better understand your own issues and when it might be a good idea to seek help.

Treatment

What are the treatments for enochlophobia? The treatments are generally therapy (typically CBT) and/or medication. Let's consider each of these below.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

The most common treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which targets both your worried thoughts as well as your avoidance behavior. It can also involve desensitization to work on your physical reactions to crowds.

As part of CBT, you would learn how to identify unhelpful thinking patterns and replace them with more adaptive ways of thinking.

You would also gradually face the situations that you fear, beginning with the easiest and gradually working your way up to the hardest, while also engaging in some form of relaxation training. This could happen in real life (in real crowd situations) or it could be done using your imagination.

Medication

Anti-anxiety medication might also be prescribed if your anxiety is severe and impacting your life. You might be prescribed either a short-term or long-term medication depending on your symptoms and particular needs.

Self-Help Coping Ideas

What can you do on your own to cope with enochlophobia? There are several strategies that you can employ to try and reduce your fear of crowds:

  • Connect something positive with crowds so that you break the negative association (e.g., go to see an enjoyable movie or your favorite concert performer)
  • Learn to recognize the signs of an unstable crowd vs. a stable crowd. Crowds are generally only dangerous if they turn into a crazed group of people, which tends to happen when they are moving toward something that they want (e.g., a shopping event, entering a venue, etc.) If you can learn to avoid dangerous crowds and understand that most crowds are safe, your fear might be lessened.
  • Have an exit strategy or position yourself near the edges of a crowd so that you feel comfortable about your ability to leave if necessary.
  • If a crowd starts to move, move with the crowd rather than pushing against it or trying to exit the opposite way.
  • As you face situations that cause you anxiety, be sure to do it in a gradual way and slowly build up. If it feels helpful to you, bring someone along whom you trust. Choose someone who will be understanding and not judge you if you need to leave.
  • Choose times to go places when there aren't likely to be crowds, such as shopping at night or avoiding big sales.
  • Focus on taking deep breaths if you do find yourself becoming overwhelmed by anxiety.
  • Keep your mind occupied if you find yourself in a crowd, by doing other things such as listening to your headphones.
  • Practice daily meditation to build up your tolerance to stress and learn how to slow down your mind.
  • Keep a journal to track patterns of your anxiety and stress and any triggers that you notice make things worse.

A Word From Verywell

If you choose to manage your fear of crowds on your own, remember that many of the above strategies are short-term solutions. If you truly want to get over and be rid of your fear of crowds, it will be beneficial to visit a mental health professional for a diagnosis and to learn about treatment options.

Regardless of what option you choose, know that you are not alone in your fear of crowds and that other people have learned how to cope with and manage the same thing. There isn't any reason why with the help of a professional as well as coping strategies you can use on your own, that you can't get back out there and start enjoying being in groups of people again.

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Article Sources

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