What Is Monophobia?

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What Is Monophobia?

Monophobia is the fear of being alone. This catch-all term includes several discrete fears which may or may not share a common cause, like the fear of:

  • Being apart from a particular person
  • Being home alone
  • Being in public by yourself
  • Feeling isolated or ignored
  • Experiencing danger while alone
  • Living alone
  • Loneliness
  • Solitude

Monophobia is also known as autophobia, eremophobia, and isolophobia. Monophobia is a specific phobia, meaning it involves the fear of a certain situation. When faced with the feeling of being alone, someone with monophobia will experience extreme anxiety.

Symptoms

While most of us can identify someone in our support system who we will miss if they are away, the distress that people with monophobia experience is much more serious and disruptive. Symptoms of monophobia can vary, but may include:

  • Dizziness, fainting, or nausea while alone
  • Experiencing intense anxiety that's out of proportion with their situation
  • Feeling apprehensive when thinking about being alone
  • Feeling secluded or ignored even while in a group or crowd of people
  • Going to great lengths to avoid being isolated
  • Increased heartbeat, tightness in the chest, and trouble breathing while alone
  • Panic attacks
  • Problems functioning in other aspects of their lives, including their ability to maintain healthy relationships
  • The belief that something catastrophic will happen if they are left alone

Monophobia can cause significant problems and distress. If you or a loved one are struggling with monophobia, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Identifying Monophobia

To diagnose monophobia, your doctor will conduct a history and physical and will make sure that another condition is not the cause of your symptoms. They will look for signs that your fear of being alone is severe enough to disrupt your everyday life. As is the case with other phobias, feeling nervous or uncomfortable isn't enough to warrant a diagnosis.

If you have monophobia, being alone (or, in some cases, imagining that you're alone) will provoke immediate fear or anxiety and lead to a pattern of avoidance. For a diagnosis, symptoms of a phobia must be present for at least six months.

Causes

It's not clear what causes conditions like monophobia. It may have developed due to a traumatic experience you had while left alone, or you may have learned the behavior from a family member or close friend.

It's also possible that childhood adversity could play a role in monophobia. Children may develop a fear of being alone after experiencing things like:

  • Abuse
  • Death of a parent
  • Divorce
  • Domestic violence
  • Economic problems within the family
  • Extended separation from a parent
  • Neglect
  • Parental substance misuse or mental illness
  • Serious illness of a family member

Feelings of loneliness and challenges with self-regulation may also trigger monophobia. The condition may be linked to feelings of inadequacy should an emergency situation arise, a common concern for many people who fear being alone even when in their own homes.

You may also have legitimate reasons for feeling fearful, like if you live in a neighborhood with a high crime rate. Generally, these fears should not dictate the way you live your life, beyond encouraging you to take rational safety precautions.

Comorbidities

Monophobia shares characteristics with several other conditions, like:

In children, attachment anxiety and separation anxiety disorder may show some of the same symptoms of monophobia. Attachment anxiety can develop when a child isn't able to form a secure relationship with a caregiver. An adult with this attachment style may work very hard to maintain close relationships and may show controlling or clingy behavior.

Separation anxiety is a normal part of early childhood development. However, if a child is experiencing severe distress that persists into later childhood, it may be a sign of separation anxiety disorder. Adults can also experience separation anxiety disorder.

Treatment

Like all phobias, the fear of being alone responds well to a variety of treatment options. People with monophobia may benefit from medication and therapy. Your treatment will likely focus on:

  • Reducing the fear and anxiety you experience while you're alone
  • Gradually building up your ability to be by yourself

Medication

Your doctor may prescribe medication to help control the symptoms of monophobia. This could include anti-anxiety medications, like benzodiazepines or beta-blockers, or antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

If your doctor does prescribe medication, it will likely be used together with therapy. Medication may also be used short-term as a way to reduce the anxiety you feel while undergoing therapy.

Psychotherapy

Behavioral therapy is an essential part of the treatment process for a phobia. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps you learn how to notice and challenge the automatic thoughts associated with your phobia. This may help you identify moments when your anxiety is out of proportion with the actual danger of being alone.
  • Desensitization: Desensitization is a process where you're exposed to situations that cause anxiety while you practice techniques to keep yourself calm. This form of therapy is meant to slowly desensitize you to the experience of being alone.

Coping

Feeling unable to be alone can make it hard to travel, run errands, and experience many aspects of your life. You may have significant problems maintaining friendships and romantic relationships, as others might view your anxieties as controlling or clingy behavior.

If you have monophobia, it's important to seek treatment and follow the advice of your doctor. They can help you come up with at-home coping strategies you can use to help alleviate your anxiety. These techniques could include:

You might find that background noise helps to distract you in situations where you have to be alone. Carrying a stimulating toy can also give you something to focus on while in public to mitigate anxiety, as can carrying around a book or tablet—just be careful that this doesn't become an avoidance behavior.

You might also find comfort in making sure you have minimized the legitimate risks that may be causing your fear. That could mean making sure your home is secure or ensuring that you're not alone in a legitimately dangerous location.

You can also look to your support system for help coping with monophobia. If you're away from a particular person, talking on the phone or online may help alleviate your immediate distress. Some families even create rituals, such as eating the same meal for dinner or sending special emails at the same time each night, to honor their relationships while they're apart.

A Word From Verywell

If your fear of being alone is severe, or if it affects your daily life, the best solution is to seek professional treatment. Monophobia is a treatable condition, and getting the assistance of a mental health professional can help you address your phobia and improve your day-to-day experience.

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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