A person with enochlophobia may avoid crowds. But therapy, medication, and coping strategies can help.
Do you experience extreme fear when you’re in a crowd? Do you pass up invitations to the movies, concerts, or theme parks due to your fear?
If so, you may be experiencing enochlophobia, an intense fear of crowds.
Enochlophobia is an irrational fear of crowds. A person with this phobia experiences high levels of anxiety when they’re in a crowd or just thinking about being in a crowd.
Many people with enochlophobia do their best to avoid crowds in any situation. They may avoid:
- theme parks
- any other place that might draw a lot of people
Enochlophobia isn’t a separate diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), but it can be categorized as a specific phobia.
Enochlophobia shares some characteristics with other phobias and mental health conditions, including:
- social anxiety disorder
Still, these conditions are not the same.
Enochlophobia vs. agoraphobia
Enochlophobia is sometimes confused with agoraphobia, but these phobias have clear differences.
Enochlophobia is the specific fear of crowds. Agoraphobia is similar in that it can sometimes involve crowds, but it also involves other situations where escape could be difficult or embarrassing. This may include:
- taking public transportation
- being in open spaces
- being away from home alone
Agoraphobia is usually an extension of panic disorder. Many people with agoraphobia fear having a panic attack in these places, particularly a location where they’ve already had one.
Enochlophobia vs. ochlophobia
Enochlophobia is a fear of any crowd, while ochlophobia is a fear of mobs or violent crowds.
Enochlophobia vs. social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
A person with social anxiety disorder is fearful in social situations where they may feel judged or rejected. This may involve crowds, but it could also include just being around a few people or individuals.
The symptoms of enochlophobia are similar to those of other anxiety disorders and specific phobias.
They may include:
- pounding or fast-beating heart
- shortness of breath
- shaking or trembling
- feeling lightheaded, faint, or dizzy
- feelings of unreality or detachment
- fear of losing control
- feeling of choking
- chest pain
- fear of dying
- tingling sensations
- nausea or stomach pain
The exact cause of enochlophobia is unknown, but researchers have two basic theories about how specific phobias develop.
These theories include:
- Classic conditioning model. A specific phobia may be caused by a fearful or highly emotional event that occurs in relation to a neutral object or event. In the case of enochlophobia, the phobia may begin due to a previous scary experience in a crowd. For instance, a person who had a scary childhood experience of getting lost in a crowd may develop enochlophobia.
- Modeling theory. This occurs when a person observes a panicked reaction in another person when it comes to a specific object or situation. This fear is then internalized. For instance, enochlophobia may arise when a child watches a parent react with extreme fear or panic in a crowd.
Enochlophobia isn’t categorized as a separate diagnosis in the DSM-5, but it can be considered a situational specific phobia.
For a mental health professional to diagnose “Specific Phobia: Situational Type, Enochlophobia,” a person would likely display the following symptoms:
- They experience significant anxiety or fear of crowds.
- Being in crowds or thinking about them almost always provokes immediate anxiety.
- The fear is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by being in a crowd.
- Crowds are actively avoided or endured with extreme anxiety or fear.
- The fear or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in relationships, at work, or in other important areas of daily functioning.
- The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, often lasting for 6 months or more.
In addition, to make this diagnosis, a mental health professional should make sure that your fear of crowds would not be better explained by the symptoms of other mental health conditions, such as:
The treatment for specific phobias may include one or more of the following:
- Flooding (in vivo exposure therapy). This technique involves increasing your exposure to the stimulus to decrease anxiety and help you get used to the trigger. It’s considered the most effective intervention for a wide variety of phobias, and a few studies found it had a response rate of 80% to 90%.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Through CBT, you’ll learn to reduce your fear by identifying and changing negative or faulty belief patterns about the phobia.
- Virtual reality therapy. In this method, you are exposed to and interact with the feared stimulus on a screen.
- Desensitization techniques. This approach exposes you to a list of your triggers, starting with the least anxiety-provoking. You also learn various techniques to deal with anxiety such as relaxation, breathing control, and other cognitive approaches.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR treats your triggering experience with crowds as an unprocessed trauma. You’ll work through memories to overcome your fear.
- Medication. Sometimes healthcare professionals prescribe medication to help with specific phobias. These may include beta-blockers (propranolol), benzodiazepines (Lorazepam), or antidepressants.
- Visualization. Under the guidance of a trained clinician, you’ll visualize a crowd in a distance, then continue to move closer to the crowd, sitting with any anxiety and discomfort until it eases. This technique may be part of other therapies described above.
It can be challenging when enochlophobia affects your day-to-day life. Still, there are a few things you can try at home to lessen your fear of crowds.
Meditation can help reduce your overall anxiety levels.
When you experience anxiety, it’s a symptom of your body’s fight, flight, or freeze response. Meditation works by training your brain and body to reach a calm state, known as the relaxation response. This is essentially the opposite of the fight, flight, or freeze feeling.
Being able to reach this very relaxed state may be helpful when you encounter crowds.
If you’re unsure about how to meditate, these tools may help:
- Psych Central’s beginner’s guide to meditation
- meditation apps
- online guided meditations
- meditation books
Join a support group
Sometimes it helps to talk with someone else who’s managing a similar condition.
There are numerous support groups for anxiety and phobias — both in-person and online.
If your fear of crowds is significantly affecting your life, it may be a good idea to seek treatment from a mental health professional.
For instance, if you want to attend crowded events, such as the movies or concerts, but can’t go because of your fears, then treatment may significantly improve your quality of life.
If you have enochlophobia, you’re not alone. About
While living with a fear of crowds can be challenging, it’s good to keep in mind that enochlophobia is treatable. Numerous behavioral approaches, such as desensitization and flooding, are very effective in treating phobias.
If self-help strategies like meditation don’t help you enough, you might consider reaching out to a trusted mental health professional and discussing your treatment options.