Enochlophobia refers to a fear of crowds. It’s closely related to agoraphobia (a fear of places or situations) and ochlophobia (a fear of mob-like crowds).
But enochlophobia has more to do with the perceived dangers posed by large gatherings of people you might encounter in your daily life. It also includes the fear of getting stuck, lost, or harmed in a crowd.
This fear falls under the umbrella of phobias, which are defined as irrational fears that may cause severe anxiety. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about 12.5 percent of Americans will experience phobias at some point during their lifetime.
If you have a fear of crowds, you might find certain situations challenging, especially if you live or work in a highly populated area. Although there’s no official medical diagnosis for enochlophobia, some methods of therapy can help you overcome your fears. Other treatments can assist with the related symptoms.
Phobias like enochlophobia can lead to intense fear over events unlikely to take place. Even though you might realize that such an intense fear of crowds isn’t rational, it doesn’t lessen the real anxiety that can occur as a result of your phobia.
If you have enochlophobia, you might experience intense anxiety whenever you encounter a crowd of people. Your fear might not be limited to typically crowded events, such as festivals, sports games, or theme parks.
You might also experience a fear of crowds you could encounter on a daily basis, including:
- on a bus, subway, or other form of public transportation
- at movie theaters
- at grocery stores or shopping malls
- at outdoor parks
- at beaches or public swimming pools
It’s not only direct contact with crowds that can trigger enochlophobia. In some cases, just thinking about being in a crowd might result in stress and anxiety.
Phobias like enochlophobia might also affect other areas of your life, such as work and school.
The symptoms of enochlophobia are similar to those of anxiety. They include:
- increased heart rate
- shortness of breath
Over time, your fear of crowds may leave you feeling like you can’t participate in certain activities. This can cause further psychological symptoms, including depression, low self-esteem, and reduced self-confidence.
While the exact cause of enochlophobia isn’t known, it’s thought that phobias may be linked to anxiety disorders.
They may also be learned or hereditary. If one of your parents has a history of fearing crowds, then you might’ve picked up on their phobias as a child and eventually developed some of the same fears yourself.
Though a certain phobia may run in your family, you could also develop a different type of phobia from your parents and relatives. For example, one person might have agoraphobia or social phobia, while you might have enochlophobia.
Negative past experiences can also lead to a fear of crowds.
For example, if you once got injured in a crowd or lost in a large group of people, you might subconsciously think the same incident will happen again. Your mind will then tell you that you must avoid crowds to keep from encountering any danger.
What sets apart enochlophobia from a general dislike of crowds is that the fear can take over your daily life. As a result of your fear, you might practice avoidance, which means you alter your schedule and habits to make sure you don’t come across any crowds.
Avoidance can help you feel at ease because it keeps your phobia symptoms at bay. But it can put you at a disadvantage in the long term. It may lead you to skip important experiences or fun activities, and it could cause problems with family or friends.
Because enochlophobia can lead to intense fears, it could be a challenge to live with. You might especially struggle if you’re regularly exposed to crowds.
Avoidance could help, but relying on this practice all the time may make your phobia worse. Instead, you can turn to other methods that might help you better live with or even reduce your fear of crowds.
Mindfulness is one way you can try to ease your enochlophobia. Focus on being in the moment, so your mind doesn’t wander to what-if scenarios. Doing this can help you stay grounded and prevent irrational fears from cropping up.
If you do encounter a large crowd or plan on being in one, try to visualize yourself safe and confident in your surroundings. When possible, you might ask a friend or loved one to accompany you to a crowded event.
Reducing anxiety could also help you manage symptoms of enochlophobia. Everyday strategies include:
- regular exercise
- a healthy diet
- enough sleep
- adequate hydration
- less caffeine
- relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises
- time spent on activities you enjoy
- social activities that involve small groups
Therapy is the primary form of treatment for enochlophobia. It may include a combination of talk therapy and desensitization techniques, such as the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of talk therapy that helps you work through your fears and learn how to replace irrational thinking habits with rational ones.
- Exposure therapy. In this form of desensitization, you’re gradually exposed to crowds. Your therapist may even accompany you.
- Virtual reality technology. This emerging form of exposure therapy may help you desensitize yourself to crowds without physically being in them.
- Visual therapy. With visual therapy, you’re shown photos and images of crowds to help reshape your thinking before real-life exposure.
- Group therapy. This practice can connect you with others who also deal with phobias.
Sometimes, a healthcare provider might prescribe medications to help ease anxiety symptoms you might experience with enochlophobia. Therapists can’t prescribe these. Possible medication options include antidepressants, beta-blockers, and sedatives.
If you or a loved one has a fear of crowds, chances are you’re already fully aware of what type of phobia it is. Not all phobias require medical attention, but if your enochlophobia is severe enough to interfere with your daily life, it may be helpful to talk with a doctor.
Your primary care doctor is a good place to start. Depending on the intensity of your symptoms, your doctor might refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for further evaluation.
No medical test can diagnose enochlophobia. Instead, a mental health professional may have you fill out a questionnaire that lets you rate the frequency and severity of your symptoms. That person can also help you identify what triggers your fears so you can work through them.
Seeing a mental health professional takes courage — and the sooner you seek help, the better the outcome for your intense fear of crowds. You likely won’t overcome your fears overnight. But with continued therapy over weeks or months, you can learn to shift your current way of thinking.
A general dislike of crowds isn’t usually a cause for concern. But if you have an intense fear of them, you might have enochlophobia.
If this fear interferes with your daily routine and quality of life, it’s time to talk with your doctor and ask for some advice.
Therapy — and sometimes medications — can help you work through your fears so that one day you might be able to encounter a crowd with ease.