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Everything You Need to Know about Anthropophobia

Ashmeet Bagga
Man as a social being, needs to constantly interact with people. But some people cringe at the thought of talking to anybody. This is known as anthropophobia.

Did You Know?

The word anthropophobia is made up of Greek words 'ánthropos', meaning man, and 'phóbos', meaning fear.
We are constantly surrounded by people, we stay with our family, meet people while commuting for work, we have people working in our office. So in one way or other, we communicate with so many people daily.
It has become a daily routine just like eating and sleeping, or rather it is necessary to talk to others for our mental well-being. But there are some people who are scared of interacting with other people for their own reasons.
According to Wikipedia, anthropophobia can be defined as, "the fear of people in crowded situations, but can also go beyond and leave the person uncomfortable when being around just one person." Anthropophobia is the persistent fear of people, wherein sufferers have a hard time to be around other people. It is an extended version of social phobia.
While few instances of this phobia may be mild, there are certain cases where the individual decides to isolate himself from the rest of the world. He shuts himself from any direct communication and limits social interaction to electronic communication and letters. At times, patients turn to drugs and alcohol for relief or before facing stressful situations.
For example, we all know Rajesh Koothrappali from Big Bang Theory. Initially he used to be nervous to talk to any girl, but after gulping down two or three glasses of liquor he could talk to them. So when he was sober he couldn't open his mouth and had to rely on alcohol.

Anthropophobia Causes

✦ Like all the other phobias, it can be a cause of past traumatic experiences. Since it is a more complex phobia, it is stated that it can be due to genetics and heredity.

✦ If an individual has been a victim of physical violence or went through psychological, emotional abuse, and bullying they are most likely to develop this sort of phobia.
✦ If a teenager was constantly criticized by his parents, teachers, friends, boyfriend, or girlfriend, they will develop this phobia because his mind would be filled with criticism about him. He may start thinking that people dislike him, his mindset, and his appearance.
✦ Certain neurological and mental ailments are other causes. Say for example, people suffering from autism prefer to be alone. However, if this condition is not treated with balanced solitude and social training, chances are they will develop people fear.
✦ People with disorders that causes paranoia, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder are at a high risk of developing anthropophobia.

✦ An intensely negative experience with individuals in the past is also one of the causes of anthropophobia.
✦ And for some others there is no cause. It can develop anytime and for any reason. But one good thing is that you don't need to dig into its root cause to treat this condition.

Signs and Symptoms

Although the adults are quite aware of the fact that their fear is irrational and people are not really dangerous, but even thinking about facing somebody brings on an attack of anxiety. The worst part is that often these symptoms are so severe, that the sufferer is unable to enjoy or relax in the company of people he or she loves and trusts.
The following are the signs and symptoms experienced by an anthropophobic.
✦ Nausea
✦ Shyness
✦ Dyspnea
✦ Giddiness
✦ Palpitations
✦ Uneasiness
✦ Panic Attack
✦ A fear of death
✦ Unnecessary blushing
✦ Excessive perspiration
✦ Feeling the need to flee
✦ Avoiding social situations
✦ Pathological form of timidity
✦ Fear of meeting people's gaze
✦ Becoming insane or losing order
✦ A feeling of detachment from reality
✦ Some even try to avoid contact with other people due to their fear.
✦ Tend to think that others are making judgment about their appearance, intelligence.

How To Overcome Anthropophobia

1. Don't face the problem alone!

Of course they are petrified of people, so it won't be easy for them to consult a therapist. Self help will only get them so far. If they really want to have healthy relationships and to get rid of anthropophobia, they have to seek professional assistance.
Visiting a therapist will feel like a major hurdle, but maybe an anthropophobic can start communicating with them via telephone. If he/she feels comfortable they can start talking over video conference and next step would be to meet them in person.

2. Exposure Therapy

It is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy. This is the first and foremost treatment used by a therapist. It comprises five steps, in the first step a therapist will question the patient about his/her past and try to pinpoint the main reason for their anxiety. Second step, he will suggest some treatment.
In the third step, the therapist will work with the sufferer in creating a list of stressful situations, more severe than the last. In the fourth step, the sufferer is introduced to the first fear from the list. In the last step, an anthropophobic would gradually feel at ease and feelings of panic would decrease as he works his way through rest of the list.

3. Behavioral Therapy

It involves one-to-one session with a therapist. An anthropophobic would be able to control his anxiety through relaxation technique. It was introduced by the psychologist Ivan Pavlov. By creating a link between calm and peacefulness of mind to stressful situations, patients would eventually learn to relax in such scenarios.

4. Medication

Medication is also prescribed by certain therapists to reduce the emotional pain that the patient undergoes. Sedatives are offered to reduce social discomfort, this helps them to have limited social interaction.

5. Morita Therapy

It is an effective and popular therapy from Japan. Based on the principles of Zen Buddhism, it helps patients to get over their fear. People with any sort of phobia first need to accept their fear, so instead of avoiding or pushing it aside they make peace with their fear. They accept the fact that they are scared and learn ways to deal with it positively.

6. Self Help

If they are having trouble reaching out people, then there are few things they can do to help themselves. Although it is recommended to seek professional advice, but they can invest in several workbooks and CDs to overcome their fear.
One must try to overcome their phobia by talking to people via electronic devices. Once that hurdle is crossed, they can meet up face to face with the supervision of some family member.
Though it is one of the weird phobias, if left untreated it can worsen over time. Some people with anthropophobia even quit work or school to avoid seeing people altogether. Treating anthropophobia may take time, however with proper guidance and support from family one can easily get over their fear.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purpose only and does not in any way attempt to replace the diagnosis of a medical professional.