The fear of crowds or Enochlophobia is known by different names such as Ochlophobia and Demophobia. As the name indicates, this phobia consists of an irrational fear of large crowds and gatherings of people. Enochlophobia is closely related to Agoraphobia (which is the fear of and desire to avoid situations wherein one believes s/he may be subjected to incapacitation, humiliation etc).
Causes of Enochlophobia
Enochlophobia is a common social phobia that is known to affect many people today. Women tend to be affected by it more than men.
Every case of Enochlophobia is different and depends on the thoughts, movies and images the individual associates the large crowds with. This is mainly due to different thinking patterns of each phobic. Thus, there is no one cause for the fear of crowds but most experts blame genetics, biochemical irregularities, stressful or traumatic life events and inaccurate beliefs for the fear of crowds.
An individual suffering from excessive fear of crowds finds the masses of people too noisy. As a result, s/he fears being unable to hear what one is supposed to hear. The individual feels his personal space may get violated by the crowd and he/she goes to great lengths to avoid crowds or free themselves from it. Typically, shy individuals or people who are unable to desensitize themselves from the emotions of people in the crowd are more likely to suffer from Enochlophobia.
Symptoms of Enochlophobia
Demophobes (as the people suffering from Enochlophobia are known) have various internal representations for their fear. Naturally the symptoms presented are different in each patient. These symptoms and signs are broadly characterized as physical, mental or emotional and may include:
- Mild anxiety which can turn to a full blown panic attack at the thought of seeing large crowds. The demophobic individual is likely to go to great lengths to avoid crowds and flee from it.
- Inability to function normally; cannot distinguish between reality and unreality.
- The feeling of not being able to breathe or being choked.
- Upset stomach, nausea, gastrointestinal distress etc. Increased heart rate, blood pressure are some other physical symptoms of this phobia.
- Shaking and trembling or excessive sweating are also likely in the phobic.
Many demophobic individuals are certain of being trampled or crushed by the crowds. They also fear catching germs or viruses due to close contact with sick people around them. The fear of getting lost, the insecurity of being surrounded by strangers and feeling small and insignificant in the crowds are a few of the thoughts in the minds of Enochlophobics.
Treatment for the fear of crowds
Self help is the best form of treatment for this phobia. Experts recommend the following practices to overcome one’s fear of crowds:
- Breathing deeply and focusing on the breath.
- Gradually desensitizing oneself: beginning with smaller events and increasing one’s comfort level so that one can slowly attend larger events comfortably.
- Having a close friend or family member along for support. This can help ease anxiety.
- To keep anxiety at bay, experts also recommend focusing on one person in the gathering/party. Talking to this person and focusing the mind on him can help the phobic keep the mind occupied and prevent negative thoughts.
Other than these self-help remedies, one can also seek professional help, counseling, talk therapy, group therapy, Hypnotherapy, behavior therapy or drugs for treating their fear of crowds phobia.