Also known as autophobia, isolophobia, or eremophobia, monophobia is the fear of being isolated, lonely, or alone. As a phobia, this fear isn't necessarily a realistic one. Though you may know that you are safe physically, you may still be afraid of strangers or intruders, being unloved, having an emergency and no help, or experiencing other unexpected events without assistance.
Experts believe that monophobia is part of a group of mental health conditions known as the agoraphobic cluster. Agoraphobia is an acute fear of being outside or in a strange place. There are varying degrees of monophobia: some people need a specific companion with them, others need any other person to be in the same room, and others require someone to be in the house.
This phobia can manifest in a variety of ways including:
- Fear of being separated from one particular person
- Fear of being home alone
- Fear of being in public alone
- Fear of feeling alone or isolated
- Fear of facing a dangerous situation alone
- Fear of living alone
- Fear of a sense of loneliness or solitude
Symptoms of Monophobia
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association includes a list of specific criteria for diagnosing a phobia:
- Unreasonable or excessive fear triggered by a specific event or situation, like being alone
- Instant anxiety response that is not proportional to the danger or threat at hand
- Recognition that the fear isn't warranted or isn't in proportion to the situation
- Avoidance of the situation whenever possible
- Extreme distress when in the situation
- Fear that impacts the person's ability to go to school, work, or have a social life
- Fear that has persisted for longer than six months
- Fear that is not the result of another disorder
In essence, a phobia is a fear or level of anxiety that lasts for a long time and has a serious impact on your quality of life. While most people have aversions to or dislike certain events, situations, or things, a phobia is more extreme and often requires professional help.
Monophobia is related to other forms of social anxiety, as it is related to the way in which you connect to other people around you.
Experiencing situations that trigger monophobia can also result in physical symptoms, including:
Causes of Monophobia
Phobias generate feelings of fear and anxiety so intense that they impact a person's daily life and routine. A phobia evokes a response of your body's "fight or flight" system, causing your brain to believe that you're in imminent danger. People can develop phobias of all kinds for a variety of reasons, including:
- Biological. Neurotransmitters in the brain can react in unexpected ways to certain input, making your brain believe that you're in danger from a specific person, thing, or situation.
- Genetic and family. A tendency toward high levels of fear and anxiety can be inherited from a parent. Similarly, a child can witness a family member's fear of a situation (like being alone) and may learn to fear the same thing.
- Environmental. Trauma, or experiencing an extremely anxiety-inducing situation of being alone, can cause monophobia.
While scientists aren't totally clear about what causes phobias like monophobia, many guess that these kinds of complex phobias are caused by a combination of these factors. Many times, though not always, phobias can be traced back in part to events or experiences in childhood.
A mental health professional can diagnose a phobia like monophobia. After diagnosing autophobia, monophobia, or isolophobia, a doctor can help you navigate the next steps in recovery.
In the process of diagnosing monophobia, your doctor will likely ask about your medical history and physical health. The doctor will need a description of the situations that bring on your extreme anxiety.
Your doctor or psychiatrist may use a test called a behavioral avoidance test, or BAT, to measure the intensity of your fear of or aversion to being alone. This is a tool that professionals use to assess the intensity of your fear or avoidance of something specific.
Treatment of Monophobia
Like many other situational phobias, monophobia can be managed through psychotherapy. There are a few ways that a therapist might help you work through your fear of being alone.
Exposure therapy. This form of therapy is based on incrementally increasing the amount of time that someone is exposed to the thing or situation that they are afraid of. Exposure therapy has been scientifically and clinically demonstrated to help people overcome certain kinds of anxieties and phobias.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy. One of the most widely used and best-studied forms of psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a blend of two kinds of therapy: cognitive and behavioral. The concept is to identify problems or triggers and explore your rational thoughts and knowledge about the situation as well as your emotional reaction. Disrupting harmful thought and behavior patterns can be very helpful in managing phobias.
Medications. There are a variety of medications that can be useful when managing phobias or the extreme distress that they can trigger. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and sedatives can all be helpful to someone suffering from monophobia in different contexts. Each of these kinds of drugs must be prescribed by a doctor and used only under medical direction.