Man by nature is a social animal. Our ancestors depend on one another for survival. When hunting for wild animals, the men will form a hunting group to increase their chance of success in finding food. This social bond and connection have been passed on to generations which we see today.
And in today's world where globalism is promoted by developed countries, the world has become more connected. The rapid development of technology has made it easier to connect to people wherever they are in the world.
For a person to be fearful of people is not a normal behavior. Thus, it is considered a social anxiety disorder and the term Anthropophobia is given to those who suffer from it.
Signs and Symptoms of Anthropophobia
Anthropophobia, also sometimes called anthrophobia, comes from the Greek word “Anthro”, meaning people, and “Phobia” which means fear. So why does a person has anthropophobia, and what are the usual signs and symptoms that they show?
- Experiences severe anxiety when exposed to people
- Consciously avoids interaction or to be even near other people
- Normal daily activity is affected because of the fear of bumping into people
- The fear of people is not short-lived but lasts six months or more
- Experiences distress and inability to think clearly
- Shortness of breath just thinking about being with people
- Increase heartbeat or palpitation with the sight of people
Causes and Common Triggers of Anthropophobia
Just like other phobias, anthropophobia is a learned fear of phobia. It could be due to an impactful experience that affected the sufferer in a very profound way.
The following are some of the causes related to anthropophobia:
- A traumatic experience especially during childhood which could be physical, or emotional abuse, or even bullying.
- A mental or neurological condition may also increase the risk of anthropophobia. An example would be those who are diagnosed with autism often would exhibit strong feelings of being left alone.
- People with mental disorders that cause paranoia, such as bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia are also high risk for anthropophobia.
- Genetics may also be part of the cause.
Treatments of Anthropophobia
It is important to note that anthropophobia is a disorder that can be overcome. Self-help treatment is possible if a mild form is exhibited by the person suffering from this condition. Hypnotherapy can also help to get to the source of the problem. While there are no specific treatments designed for this condition, the usual accepted therapy for most forms of phobia can be administered to the patient.
Here are the major treatments for persons with anthropophobia:
For most phobias, exposure therapy is said to be the most successful. There are several studies conducted about treatments of phobias using imaginal exposure. This means for people with anthropophobia, they will be gradually exposed to images of the thing that they fear, which in this case are people. Based on the same studies, 90% of subjected to the treatment exhibited a considerable fear reduction. And around 65% no longer experienced any symptoms of their phobias.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This is another form of treatment for persons with phobias. It is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve the patient’s mental health. What it does is it helps the patient to challenge, or change their thoughts or beliefs in addressing their problems. This treatment was originally meant to treat depression but has since been expanded to treat other conditions including social anxiety disorder, which is common and exhibited by most, if not by all phobic people.
Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT)
In this type of therapy, the patient is given a simulated experience using computer programs and artificially created environments. They use Virtual Reality gadgets to provide the patient a controlled stimuli as part of the treatment. They then monitor the patient’s reaction. It’s a series of VR-based treatment where it involves adjusting the virtual environment. Replaying virtual scenes multiple times with or without adjustment depending on the patient's reaction. In this case, a virtual environment of a large crowd will be set-up for the patient.
Societal and Cultural Impact of Anthropophobia
Just like other persons suffering from different types of phobias, a person with anthropophobia finds it hard to function in a normal way in a society. They may even fear not only strangers but also close friends and loved ones seeing them as someone that can hurt him or her. Persons suffering from anthropophobia will avoid going out and may gradually prefer to stay at home and be left alone.
How Common Is Anthropophobia?
While adults are suffering from this condition, anthropophobia seems more common in teens from 13-18 years old. For them, having social interaction with other people causes uneasiness and anxiety. That is why they tend to be very timid, withdrawn and would love to be left alone.
What Should You Do If You Have Anthropophobia?
If you find yourself suffering from a mild form of anthropophobia, self-help practices such as breathing exercises, asking a close friend or family member for support, or gradually interacting with people. But, if you have a more severe form and believe you can no longer function, you may need to seek professional help to help you overcome your condition.
Since anthropophobia is a form of a social anxiety disorder, it needs to be addressed and treated as soon as possible. Not doing so may worsen the condition and may lead to severe depression, causing mental and physical degradation. Fear of people is a more restricting disorder as compared to other phobias, e.g. fear of spiders, or fear of clowns. It's not every day that one sees a spider or a clown when one goes out of the house, but seeing people outside your house is common, that’s why your fear is going to be more pervasive.
There are many ways to overcome this condition, and successful treatments have been documented for persons not only with anthropophobia, but similar social anxiety disorders. The best way is to seek treatment so you or anyone you know, that has this condition will be able to live a healthy life, free from irrational fear of people.