HOW DO YOU EXPERIENCE LONELINESS?
People suffering from autophobia are very anxious about being abandoned. Indeed, for these people being alone is an intense suffering. It can cause significant psychological and physical pain, with short- and long-term repercussions in all aspects of life: personal, relational and professional. However, the harmony between encounters and solitude is fundamental to the well-being of any individual. It is therefore important to understand one’s relationship to loneliness in order to take charge of one’s life and avoid further suffering.
Table of Contents
- What is autophobia?
- What is loneliness?
- Why autophobia?
- From an unpleasant feeling to a phobia of loneliness?
- Who is affected by autophobia?
- How does autophobia manifest itself in everyday life?
- What are the physical symptoms of autophobia?
- What are the consequences of autophobia?
- What tips can I use to get rid of my autophobia?
- How can I overcome my autophobia?
1. What is autophobia?
Autophobia is, by etymology, the “fear of being oneself“. But in reality it is the excessive, intense and irrational fear of being alone and/or of feeling alone. This phobia leads to significant discomfort that can become pathological with the physical effects of this suffering. In order to be considered pathological, the anxiety about loneliness must last for at least 6 months, and it must appear in various situations. If you suffer from autophobia you may experience physical and mental disturbances in situations of isolation.
An autophobic person has a constant need to be around people. It is difficult for them to be physically alone. Sometimes this unpleasant feeling may even occur while the person is in a group. You may not feel close enough to the people present, excluded from certain activities…
When you are afraid of being alone, it is because you hate being with yourself, and this gives way to many negative and unpleasant thoughts. The other person is therefore reassuring for you, it gives you the impression that you are lovable. It is as if loneliness is a punishment for you. You are punished for being who you are, and cannot be loved and deserve to be alone. On the contrary, when the other person is there, it is a reward that is offered to you. You feel more confident when the other is present.
The main objective of a person with autophobia is to do everything to escape from isolation.
2. What is loneliness?
To understand the fear of being alone, it is important to understand what loneliness is. If loneliness is by definition a punctual or lasting state of not being part of a social relationship, it is now also a subjective state. We can feel lonely when we are surrounded. It depends on our interpretation of our relationship with others. Everyone can feel it at some point, and experiences it in their own way. Basically, being alone is a fact, which is beneficial in moderation. However, everyone experiences moments of loneliness in their life, more or less permanently or frequently. It can make you feel incomplete. But loneliness is beneficial. It is important to learn to be alone with oneself in order to know oneself better, to be able to love oneself and to feel safe.
3. Why autophobia?
There is no single factor that defines the reasons for your autophobia. However, there may be some reasons that will give you some indication and a better understanding of your disorder.
We live in a hyper-connected age, yet we still manage to feel lonely or can’t stand being alone. Social networks are partly responsible for the increase in this phenomenon. Studies have shown that the more people use social networks, the more isolated they feel. Several hypotheses are put forward. The first is that a person who feels lonely will seek comfort on social networks and will see all the people who are doing activities together and will increase their feeling of loneliness even more. The second is that by spending time on social networks, the user will see that they are not present at certain events, and will feel excluded and feel that they have no friends and/or are not loved.
Lack of self-confidence
Lack of self-confidence can be a factor of autophobia, but it can also be a consequence. When you lack self-confidence, you are convinced that you cannot be appreciated or loved. You don’t like yourself, how can anyone else? So you convince yourself that you don’t have friends, and that you can never have friends. You also convince yourself that no one will want to date you and form a relationship. When you are in a relationship, you cling to it because you are afraid that if you lose it, no one else will want you again.
Today, it will be fundamental to get out of this vicious circle that is poisoning your life.
Feeling of abandonment
Today, it will be fundamental to get out of this vicious circle that poisons your life. It is very often thought that autophobia comes from a feeling of abandonment mostly linked to childhood. This psychological wound is due to the fact that the child has had the impression of having lost parental love or that parental love is uncertain.
This may be due to an actual forgetfulness (at the nursery, with friends, after an activity, etc.) or to a deeper trauma (death of a parent, divorce, moving house, etc.). This state of mind and anxiety lasts over time, until adulthood. This is why, when an event occurs, it is important to discuss it with the child. This will give the child a sense of relational security.
Parental attitudes in childhood
The ability to live alone is developed in childhood. Indeed, when a child grows up, he or she gradually goes through stages of development, including learning to be independent. At a certain age, the child thinks that when he no longer sees his mother, it means that she no longer exists, and this causes him great anxiety. The child must therefore be told about the departure and be properly accustomed to it. If, on the other hand, the parent is absent or distant from the child, the child will never feel secure and will always feel that he or she is in danger of losing the parents’ love. This love is conditional for the child, and adds to the pressure that blocks him and prevents him from accepting solitude serenely. The distant and/or absent attitude of the parent offers neither security nor understanding to the child.
It is also possible that this aloof attitude is also reflected in the lack of attention paid to the child. The child is not given importance, is not valued, and is left thinking that he or she is not interesting. The child will then lack self-confidence and convince himself that he cannot be loved, and that he himself has no reason to be loved.
A person who has experienced trauma may feel a sense of danger. After an assault, or a lack of help in a difficult situation, you may not feel able to be alone again if something happens again. You need to know that someone may be able to help you in your time of need, and that this person can be trusted. You experience repeated anxiety attacks.
Daily life may not seem easy. It is possible that certain constraints, even in our adult life, can make us change and fear loneliness. The fact that we have not had a romantic relationship for a long time, poor social relations and few outings, a painful and misunderstood break-up of a love or friendship, a death. Lack of income can also have an impact on this anxiety.
4. From an unpleasant feeling to a phobia of loneliness?
There is a difference between not liking to be alone and suffering from a phobia. We are social beings. That is why, by definition, humans are not made to be alone and do not like it. We are made to live in community. And yet, we also need to live alone and have our solitary activities in order to get to know and love ourselves. To have a healthy relationship with yourself and to reach emotional maturity, it is important to alternate moments of solitude and moments in a group.
Fear, as long as it is not at the pathological stage, can manifest itself by the presence of another phobia: phobia of the dark, impulse phobia (we are afraid of who we can be in certain conditions and of our reactions), fear of feeling ill, hypochondria (notably because of COVID, or other disorders that can create OCD), school phobia…
5. Who is affected by autophobia?
This anxiety is common. Everyone can, at one time or another, feel this fear. It is considered pathological when it lasts more than 6 months. Between 50 and 70% of the French population may feel lonely. You should therefore be aware that if you feel isolated in the face of this anxiety, you are far from being in this case.
This phobia can develop at any age, but it is often seen from adolescence onwards or even when we become young adults. This is because we start to develop new friendships, and begin to think about romantic relationships. This disorder affects both men and women.
6. How does autophobia manifest itself in everyday life?
The anxiety of being alone is so strong that you adopt certain behaviours to try, unconsciously, to protect yourself.
Doing any activity
You may do activities that we do not like just to be alone. A group activity gives you the feeling that you are not alone and that you are not reflecting this loneliness back to others. If you tell others that you are doing an activity, you do not let them think that you are alone and this makes you feel better.
Creating false information
In order to conform to certain social expectations that you assume to be normal, you sometimes invent certain activities, outings, encounters etc. Sometimes you improve on the reality to make it more in line with what is expected, sometimes you create a false life. You are afraid to say that you did nothing or that you were alone at home, because this would let others think that you are not doing anything and that you are unlovable. It would legitimise the fact that there are many reasons not to like you.
Avoiding your image
You have difficulties with your image. It is difficult for you to look at yourself in the mirror for too long. When you look at yourself you see all your physical characteristics that you do not like but also your personal defects. You find in this image all the reasons why you are alone and why you must not lose the people around you, otherwise you will not find anyone else.
Perceiving an insecure environment
The world and the environment in which you live and work seem unsafe. You have the impression that people in our society are bad, without empathy and without heart. You therefore feel misunderstood in a world of rough people, who are strong. You therefore feel particularly weak and fragile.
You perceive danger all around you. Being alone makes you feel even more dangerous and that you are threatened as soon as you are not surrounded. This is why you sometimes feel so lost that you may resort to emotional blackmail with the people around you. For example, during a break-up, you may have threatened your ex-partner that if he or she left you, you would do something stupid.
Living on jealousy
You are so insecure about your relationships that you are particularly jealous when you have a partner or even in friendships. When the other person does an activity without you, with another person, you experience it as a betrayal. You regularly accuse your partner of cheating on you or of being interested in another woman/man. You are always on your phone texting the other person, and if they don’t reply immediately you get worried and angry. If you don’t hear from your friends almost every day, you can already see yourself not being friends with that person.
Fear of rejection
Because you feel that relationships are not taken for granted, and that they are neither secure nor stable, you are always afraid of being rejected. You imagine that overnight someone will leave and leave you. So you spend a lot of time latching on to the other person. The person has to answer you quickly, see you regularly, tell you everything, and you want to be their priority all the time. You end up locking yourself into the relationship, and trying to lock the other person in. People will end up feeling trapped and will leave the relationship. So you’ll feel abandoned and you’re reinforcing your idea that you’re constantly being rejected in relationships that you love.
Delete your natural
You feel so unlovable that you imagine that by being yourself you will feel impossible to be loved. You therefore calculate everything you are going to do and say and suppress any spontaneity or naturalness in your behaviour. You sometimes have the impression of playing a role, of not being yourself but of being the person someone would like you to be.
7. What are the physical symptoms of autophobia?
Autophobia causes such anxiety that it also manifests itself physically.
When you are alone, you may feel a panic attack coming on. Your heart rate may increase, you may feel dizzy, you may feel sick. You may also experience sweating, trembling, nausea, tightness and difficulty in breathing.
8. What are the consequences of autophobia?
The fear of loneliness makes you adopt attitudes that are not like you, or that hurt you personally. This is why, like all phobias, this anxiety can have long-term and daily consequences for you.
You are trapped in a vicious circle of social relationships and negative thoughts about yourself. You feel bad, you are sad, you have the impression that you are constantly abandoned and you suffer from this. You may even become depressed and have suicidal thoughts when the other person abandons you. Your daily life is filled with sadness, and you find it difficult to perceive moments of joy or happiness.
Lack of self-confidence
You may have a poor self-image and a great lack of self-confidence. Indeed, since you perceive all the times you have been abandoned or that the other person excluded you, you feel that you are bad. So you cannot be loved. So you don’t want to be with yourself. If others don’t want to be with you, it means that you are unpleasant to spend time with and that you are uninteresting and bad. All these ideas in your mind make you lose confidence in yourself.
You are afraid of relationships. You can think of all the times you have been abandoned and are afraid of repeating that pattern. On the other hand, you don’t want to be alone, so you are ready to accept the social or romantic relationships that come your way and hold onto them at all costs. It is therefore possible that you attach yourself to relationships that are not (or not very) healthy, with the sole aim of not being alone. You may therefore unconsciously surround yourself with people who are toxic or harmful to you. You may be under the influence of a narcissistic pervert. You may find yourself in an unrequited relationship with an opportunistic person who does not share the same feelings as you etc.
The presence of the other person gives you the feeling of being saved. So you put the other person on a pedestal and if that person leaves you, it’s a nightmare that begins for you.
Your relationships are therefore difficult to have and to keep. You put a lot of pressure on the other person and are very demanding. You are therefore left and suffer a lot.
This fear of being alone with oneself can lead to other pathologies or phobias.
The anxiety of being alone is so great that you are afraid that no one will be there to rescue you and provide for your basic needs. Agoraphobia (fear of being in a public place without the possibility of being rescued) can then develop.
You are so afraid of being alone that you may go so far as to consider the other person more important than you and necessary for your life. This emotional dependence puts you in the background and it seems impossible to live for yourself. Your life depends on the other person.
9. What tips can I use to get rid of my autophobia?
Autophobia is not irreparable. It is therefore important to follow up with a health professional to feel more serene when you are alone with yourself. On the other hand, you can follow these little tips to work on it on a daily basis and independently.
Loneliness in the right amount is not always bad. You have to accept that everyone has moments of loneliness, and that you are not an exception to this. On the contrary, it is always good to have moments of solitude. Temporary solitude enriches you, teaches you to do things, to challenge yourself, and to surprise yourself.
So do things on your own. Try to get out of your comfort zone to gradually accept your loneliness. At first, try to go to a restaurant alone for lunch, then do something longer, and maybe even take a trip with only your backpack.
Meditation allows you to have a time for yourself where you only listen to your body, your needs and your feelings. You block out everything around you. You can define this meditation time according to your level of acceptance of solitude, your mood, your fatigue and your needs. When you meditate, you get to know yourself, learn to listen to yourself and give yourself a moment to yourself. Try to create a meditation routine for yourself.
Taking time to understand your anxiety will help you to accept your disorder and to have ideas about how to proceed when you seek help from a health professional.
Imagine yourself in a situation where you are alone. You can imagine yourself alone in the street, at home, in the evening, travelling or at the cinema. Ask yourself what bothers you in this situation. Try to put forward what seems to be the problem: Is it the fact of not seeing your loved ones? Not being able to do this without help? That something bad might happen to you? Then ask yourself why you think this.
Embrace your loneliness
Being alone is not a shame. Doing activities alone doesn’t have to make the moment gloomy, sad or funless. On the contrary, there is no one else but you to dictate your desires.
Remember also that being alone is a sign of independence and autonomy. You don’t need anyone to live.
However, continue to maintain your existing social relationships, take care of them without being too smothering. Learn to adopt the right distance. Don’t be afraid to try to enter into new relationships and get to know new people.
Make a list
Distance yourself from what the other person can give you, especially when you are in a relationship. There are always things you like. Try not to lose yourself in your relationships, but keep in mind what you used to like to do and still do.
So make a list of all the things you like to do. List all the things you wish you could do alone. Remember that you don’t always need the other person to do something. Force yourself to choose at least one, and do it as soon as possible. You are capable of spending time with yourself, you deserve this precious time you can give yourself. This will also help you to increase your self-confidence.
10. How can I overcome my autophobia?
It is important to take care of yourself as soon as possible. You cannot continue to suffer from this situation. Moreover, you can also unintentionally make those around you suffer, as they love you but feel exhausted by having to justify themselves and prove things.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the most appropriate and effective treatment for self-harm. During the therapeutic sessions you will be able to work on self-esteem and self-assertion. But also to work on erroneous and negative thoughts and false beliefs.
Virtual Reality Exposure Therapies (VRET) are part of CBT and are perfectly adapted to the treatment of autophobia. Indeed, it will be possible to project oneself in different environments, allowing the visualisation of the place, the work on automatic thoughts, and on one’s safe place. Virtual Reality also makes it possible to work through relaxation on this anxiety. It is also possible to return, through images, to these traumas, conscious or unconscious, in order to find serenity in front of oneself.