How To Cope With A Fear Of Crowds
Updated August 13, 2019
Reviewer Ann-Marie Duncan
Let's face it, most of us don't like crowds. When you can't move freely as you wish and noisy strangers surround you, it can be annoying and unsettling. However, when you have a phobia of crowds, this goes far beyond simply disliking being in a large group of people. Being crowd-phobic has a significantly negative impact on your life. Whether you're going to the gym, to the store, visiting family or you're on vacation; you never know when you may find yourself in the middle of a crowd.
In this article we look at crowd-phobia, it's causes, symptoms, effects and how to cope when you're faced with your fear. Thankfully, there are treatments and coping strategies available that can change your life. So, if you're currently struggling with a fear of crowds (also known as homophobia or enochlophobia), read on.
What Is A Phobia Of Crowds?
A crowd-phobia is an irrational fear of gatherings of people and large crowds. Crowd-phobia is a close relative of agoraphobia - an anxiety disorder in which you avoid and are frightened of any situation or happening that may result in you feeling embarrassed, panicked, helpless or trapped. You may also feel that people in the crowd are talking about you or laughing at you.
What Causes A Fear Of Crowds?
To fully understand where your phobia stems from, it's useful to know what its causes are. Remembering that every case of crowd-phobia is different due to your own individual thinking patterns, some causes tend to be catalysts for developing a full-blown phobia. These include:
- Biochemical irregularities
- Traumatic or stressful experiences
- Learned behavior from parent or caregivers and more
No matter where your phobia stems from, it is treatable.
Signs And Symptoms Of Crowd-Phobia
You'll already be all too aware if you have enochlophobia. You may find crowded spaces to be so noisy and disruptive to your sense of self that you're frightened that you will be unable to hear conversations with others. You could feel that the people in crowds are violating your personal space. You may not like the experience of picking up on the emotions of people in big crowds. There are so many reasons why you may be so phobic that you go to unparalleled lengths to stay away from crowded places.
The actual symptoms you may experience differ from person to person and are emotional, physical and mental. These may include:
- Trembling, shaking and excessive perspiration when faced with or thinking about a crowd.
- Anxiety and panic attacks at the thought of being in a crowd.
- Going to incredible lengths to avoid crowds.
- Fleeing from crowds when faced with them.
- Choking feeling or feeling unable to breathe.
- Gastrointestinal upset.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Increased heart rate.
A crowd is crushing other fears you may have or catching germs from any sick people who happen to be in a crowd. You may also feel worried about your safety and could feel that you're insignificant and small.
At some point or another, you will end up having to face your fear of crowds either by choice or by circumstance. The best way to approach this is to slowly build up to getting used to being in a crowd. You might not feel that way now, but you have all the tools necessary to overcome your phobia. Why not try the following and see how you get on:
- Learn how to breathe deeply. This may sound a little strange. Why would you need to learn how to breathe? After all, you've been doing it since you were born! Well, having knowledge of how to breathe calmly and relax consciously significantly helps your phobic response to dissipate or to at least become manageable.
You can utilize a strategy known as calm breathing to help you calm down as quickly as possible. Panicked people breathe rapidly and with shallow breaths. They can't get enough air into their lungs this way and can feel dizzy and even more anxious as a result. So, practice taking slow and regular breaths through your nose, waiting a few seconds and then exhaling through your mouth.
- Begin to desensitize yourself. Facing a crowd may be utterly terrifying to you. However, don't start off by attending a sold-out rock concert. You'll only feel even worse. What you need to do is to begin by being near small crowds. When you get used to being near these, you can then work up to stepping into the outermost area of the crowd. In time, you will be able to get further in. This may take days, weeks, months or even years. The main thing is that you progress at your rate that you feel comfortable and happy with. Don't allow anyone else to try to hurry you along.
- Keep A Diary. Many people with phobias find keeping a diary of their thoughts and feelings to be very useful. Write down anything that upsets you regarding your phobia. Include your innermost feelings and what you imagine others may be saying about you. Read through your diary from time to time to gain a different perspective on your issue.
- Prepare Your script. If you're worried about what to say when you're faced with crowds and new people, prepare a list of "go-to" questions you can ask to feel more in control and less threatened by any situation.
- Self-analyze. Any time you find yourself in a situation that feels threatening, stop. Take a good look at the entire situation and figure out whether you should be feeling worried. You might feel that people are laughing at you, but are they? Maybe you're attracting a lot of stares. Isn't that because you're looking good today? Remember, social interaction should be a positive experience. Try to look at the brighter side.
- Have Someone You Love And Trust you. When you're trying out any exercises that involve exposure to your phobia, having a good friend or family member with you can help alleviate your anxiety.
- Keep Yourself Busy. If you have your loved one with you, talk to them to keep your mind occupied, so your thoughts don't begin to become negative. Or, if you are at a social gathering, have a walk around the room. Take the time to observe people. Note that nothing is frightening about their presence. Try chatting with one individual at a time.
Treatments And Strategies For Treating Crowd Phobia
Sometimes the above strategies might just not seem to help, especially if your phobia of people is very intense and deeply rooted. You may be wondering how on earth you can ever live a normal life. You might worry that you're going to spend forever avoiding events and places like the mall that most people take for granted and even enjoy visiting. There is more help out there to enable you to overcome your fear of crowded places. Let's take a look.
If your phobia is having a very negative impact on your life, your doctor may prescribe you medication to take in the short term. This is best taken alongside some form of therapy as otherwise when you stop taking the meds, the phobia will still be as bad as it ever was.
We have already discussed trying exposure therapy on your own. This is the name for slowly exposing yourself to your fears. But, if you just cannot handle that by yourself, you can contact a therapist who can take you through the process.
There are classes up and down the country that focus on honing your social skills. For example, you may wish to learn about positive body language or self-assertiveness. These classes and skills alone won't cure you of your phobia, but they will be a very useful additional weapon in your arsenal.
Nowadays there is no stigma at all that's attached to seeking out the services of a qualified therapist. Doing so doesn't mean that you are crazy or weak in any way at all. The most important aspect of finding a professional therapist to help you is that you get on well with them and that they're properly qualified, licensed and accredited. You may feel that your life is too busy to be able to see a therapist regularly. BetterHelp.com is the largest e-counseling platform in the world. You just need to answer a few quick, general and anonymous questions about yourself and your phobia to be matched with the right therapist for you. To begin, go to https://www.betterhelp.com/start/.
Living with a fear of crowds can be crippling. You may find that your friends have stopped inviting you out to places where they know you'll feel uncomfortable. They think that they're helping you and doing this for the best whereas you are feeling more and more cut off from the outside world. If this sounds like you, get help today and begin living your life to the full.