The eremophobia is the excessive and irrational fear towards the solitude. Like any other expression of fear, the fear of loneliness is an emotion that all people can experience.
Human beings are genetically programmed to relate to others, so when this does not happen we can experience certain feelings of unrest.
The rejection towards loneliness varies according to each person and depending on the personal reality of each individual.
There are people who have a greater liking for the moments of solitude and people who have a greater rejection towards this type of situations.
Likewise, there are people who can look for and enjoy moments of solitude, and people who try to avoid them since they are not comfortable when they are alone.
Regardless of the degree of preference for loneliness, all people can experience a certain fear of being alone.
In fact, although you can enjoy much of the times alone, if they told you that you should be a whole year totally isolated without being able to establish any contact with another person, surely you would react with some sense of fear.
In this way, the fear of being alone can make a totally normal reaction, so fearing loneliness does not have to always make the presence of eremophobia.
Characteristics of the eremophobia
When the fear of loneliness is pathological, we speak of eremophobia, that is, of phobia to be alone.
The eremofobia is therefore an anxiety disorder, specifically is encompassed within what is known as specific phobias.
Surely you’ve heard a lot about these types of disorders, especially phobias popularly known as spider phobia, phobia of heights or blood phobia .
Well, the eremofobia is a psychological alteration with the same characteristics as these phobias that we have just commented.
The only thing that differentiates the eremofobia from, for example, the phobia of spiders, is the feared stimulus.
In this way, while in spider phobia feelings of fear and anxiety responses appear when the person is near a spider, in the eremophobia appear when the individual faces a situation of loneliness.
As we see, in the eremofobia the feared stimulus is not an object or a specific element (like the spiders) but it is a certain situation.
Thus, the eremophobia bears more similarities with other specific situational phobias such as claustrophobia (fear of being in closed spaces), the phobia to fly or the phobia of the tunnels.
How to differentiate eremophobia from normal fear?
As it has been postulated up to now, the fear of loneliness can have normal connotations or make a disorder like eremophobia.
To be able to differentiate one from another is of special importance since if we suffer from eremophobia we will have to carry out some treatment to overcome fear and if not.
In general, the most important criterion to discern if a type of fear is pathological or not is to assess the impact it has on the individual’s life.
So, if you are afraid of loneliness but this fact does not affect your life significantly and you can live with it without problems, the possibility that you suffer from eremophobia is relatively low.
However, this assessment is quite subjective and ambiguous, so determining whether the fear that is suffered is pathological or not only through these criteria can be complex.
In this way, to be able to differentiate in a clear and unequivocal way, what we have to do is to review the characteristics of the eremophobia carefully, and determine which properties of fear can be part of the eremorbhobia and which are not.
In this sense, there are two basic aspects that we have to take into account: the type of fear experienced and the characteristics of the anxiety manifested.
1- Type of fear
Fear and its characteristics is the most studied aspect of phobias and the one that provides the most information for diagnosis.
In this way, in order to appreciate both the presence and the absence of eremophobia, it is essential to analyze the type of fear that is suffered.
To be able to affirm the presence of eremofobia, the following characteristics must be presented:
a) It is disproportionate to the demands of the situation
This is probably the least clarifying criterion and that the least information contributes to distinguish the eremophobia from the normal fear of loneliness, but it is also one of the most important.
To talk about eremophobia, feelings of fear must be disproportionate to the situation.
Therefore, the fact of being alone does not imply any real danger for the person but even so, it responds with fear and high fear.
It is true that in itself, the fact of being alone does not have to make any danger, so this first criterion could encompass all types of fear of loneliness.
However, in order to talk about eremophobia, the fear experienced must be very intense and not be related to the dangerousness of the situation.
b) It can not be explained or reasoned by the individual
This second criterion is much more useful to identify the presence of eremophobia.
The individual suffering from this anxiety disorder experiences a high fear of being alone, which can not explain or reason.
When he is alone, fear invades him completely and he is not able to identify why he experiences these sensations of fear.
In fact, people with eremophobia are usually fully aware that their fear is totally illogical and irrational.
c) It is beyond voluntary control
The fear that is experienced in the eremofobia is totally illogical and irrational and, in addition, the subject that suffers it is not capable of controlling it. In this way, the person can neither generate nor extinguish the sensations of fear.
When you are alone, these appear automatically and will only disappear when the person leaves the solitude and is in the presence of someone.
If you are afraid of loneliness but are able to control your fears when you are alone, you probably do not suffer from eremophobia.
d) It leads to the avoidance of the feared situation
As we have said before, the only way for a person to eliminate their feelings of fear when they are alone is to stop being afraid.
Thus, the eremofóbico will avoid whenever it can, through all its mechanisms, the situations that imply loneliness.
Also, when you are alone you will do everything possible to stop being so and eliminate the feelings of anxiety and fear you experience.
If when you are alone you are able to eliminate anxiety through other methods than the avoidance of loneliness, you are less likely to suffer from eremophobia.
e) Persists over time
Finally, in order to talk about eremophobia, it is very important that both the sensations of fear and the expressions of anxiety that are experienced when you are alone persist over time.
Eremophobia is not a passing disorder that appears and disappears. It is a persistent disorder, so that people suffering from this disorder experience fear whenever they are alone, without exception.
In this way, if you experience fear only in certain situations in which you are alone but not in all, it is unlikely that your fear refers to the presence of eremophobia.
2- Anxiety response
The other key point that allows us to differentiate the eremophobia from normal fear to loneliness is the anxiety response.
In fact, specific phobias are classified as anxiety disorders because the main manifestation is an exaggeratedly high response of nervousness and anxiety.
In this way, in the eremophobia, the fear that we have commented previously, invariably causes anxiety symptoms such as those that we will comment next.
a) Physical symptoms
Given the situation of loneliness, the person with eremophobia will present a series of physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, increased breathing, excessive sweating, high muscle tension, headaches or stomach pain, and even a sense of suffocation.
This type of symptoms usually vary in each case but to be able to speak of eremophobia the fear experienced must produce physical symptoms of extremely intense anxiety.
b) Cognitive symptoms
Eremophobia is always accompanied by a series of highly negative thoughts about loneliness and personal abilities to face loneliness.
These cognitions become especially intense when the person is alone and begins to experience symptoms of anxiety.
c) Behavioral symptoms
Finally, in order to talk about eremophobia, two main behaviors must be given.
The first is to completely avoid situations in which one will be alone and the second is to escape as soon as possible when the individual is in a situation of loneliness.
Genesis and maintenance of the eremofobia
Three models have been proposed, not exclusive, in which the eremophobia can be acquired. These are, classical conditioning, vicarious learning and the transmission of information.
It is sustained that the feedback of these three factors, that is, the experience of traumatic or unpleasant experiences when being alone, visualizing negative images about other people who are alone and acquiring adverse information about loneliness, motivates the appearance of eremophobia.
Likewise, the avoidance of situations of loneliness is made up as the main factor that prevents the individual from facing this type of situation and overcoming their fears, and therefore motivates the maintenance of the phobia.
In general, the use of anxiolytics is discouraged as the main treatment for this type of alterations, since psychotherapy is much more effective.
Cognitive behavioral treatment has shown to be a highly effective psychological intervention for this disorder, and can completely eradicate the phobic response to loneliness.
Also Read: Batophobia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments
The component most worked during psychotherapy sessions is behavioral, since the subject is exposed to situations of loneliness so that he learns to face his fears when he is alone.
Later, relaxation workouts can help decrease and gain control over the anxiety response, and cognitive therapy is useful for managing negative thoughts about loneliness.