How to Manage Enochlophobia
Do you start to panic at the thought of being in a large crowd of people? While not everyone with social anxiety has this specific fear, for those that do it can interfere with daily life. If you can’t go to the grocery store because the thought of being around all those people is causing you anxiety, it could be that you have what is know as enochlophobia (fear of crowds).
Bet you didn’t know there was a word for it, right? It’s also known by a couple of other terms: ochlophobia (fear of masses of people) and demophobia (fear of mobs of people). Basically, these are all talking about the same fear: worrying about large crowds for various reasons, and experiencing panic or anxiety when you find yourself in a crowd.
While enochlophobia is not a recognized mental disorder itself (in other words, you won’t be diagnosed with a “fear of crowds”), there are several related mental health disorders that could involve the fear of crowds.
These include having a specific phobia (if the only think you fear is crowds), agoraphobia (if the reason you fear going into crowds is that you’ll have a panic attack and be unable to escape—you probably fear other places too like elevators and bridges), or social anxiety disorder (if you don’t just fear crowds, but also feel judged or like you will be embarrassed when in public).
How do you know if you have a mental health issue or crowds just freak you out a little? Ask yourself whether your reaction or your fear seems out of proportion to the actual danger in the situation. And if you can’t think rationally about this, ask someone you know to give you their opinion.
But in a nutshell, if you can’t explain your fear, can’t control it, go out of your way to avoid crowds, and have a bunch of uncomfortable feelings when you do face a crowd, then you may have an issue worth seeing someone about.
In the meantime, let’s consider some things that you can do to help manage your fear of crowds or at least start to understand it better.
Keep a Journal
A super way to get a handle on your enochlophobia is to start keeping a journal of the times that you become anxious or fearful. Write down the situation that you were in, how you reacted, and any other important notes about what happened. This will help you to understand your patterns, and will be especially useful if you decided to seek treatment from a mental health professional.
Build Positive Connections
Chances are right now you have a negative connection in your mind between being in a crowd and what might happen (or has happened in the past). One way to start breaking that connection is to build some new positive connections for your mind to focus on.
Be sure to start gradually, but try to put yourself into situations that are enjoyable for you but that involve going into a crowd (even if it’s for a short time). As an example, my daughter has a fear of crowds but she’ll push through it if there’s an event she really wants to attend like a concert or theatre performance. Find something that makes the experience rewarding, and you’ll be less likely to continue avoiding crowds.
Understand the Risks
While there will always be some risks inherent to crowds, it’s important to recognize what is a real risk vs. a blown-out-of-proportion risk. Most crowds aren’t that risky—in fact, when accidents do happen it’s usually due to one major factor: crowd instability. So if your fear of crowds is due to a specific worry that you will be injured by the crowd somehow, the odds of that happening are usually very small.
Crowds are usually only dangerous if they become out of control; think, the rush of fans at a concert trying to get in the doors when they haven’t been opened yet or the rush of shoppers trying to get to a prized item at a Black Friday sale.
Usually, these dangerous crowds are a group of people moving toward something that they want rather than away from something; and, these types of incidents are still incredibly rare.
So, what can you do? Learn to be aware of the signs of an unstable crowd. If you sense the vibe of a crowd is frantic or crazed, it’s perfectly fine to have an exit strategy and it’s also okay to always stay by the sidelines.
Once you learn to recognize the signs of an unstable crowd, you will also realize that most crowds are stable, peaceful, and really no risk to you at all.
Take Baby Steps
When trying to work on your fear of crowds, be sure to take baby steps toward your goal and slowly build your confidence in a gradual way. When you do plan to go into a crowd, consider bringing someone along who understands your situation and will be supportive.
(Watch the video below to learn more about crowd anxiety and how to cope)
Timing Is Everything
I much prefer shopping during the quiet times at the mall. There’s less fighting for parking spots, the lines are shorter in the store, and you just aren’t bumping into people as much. I don’t have a fear of crowds, but I also enjoy peaceful shopping experiences too.
With that in mind, there’s no reason why you can’t time your activities to go at “low-volume” periods of the day. That’s not cheating, that’s just common sense. It’s also a good way to build up your resilience to being around groups of people if you start out going during quiet times.
Mindfulness is the state of present awareness in which you are not worrying about the past or thinking about the future. While focusing on the crowd in the moment might not be helpful, finding other things to focus on like things you see, hear, smell, feel, etc. can be a grounding experience to keep you from cycling into an anxious reaction. One way to get better at being mindful is to practice a daily guided meditation. You can find videos on Youtube as short as 10 minutes long. Do one daily, and you’ll soon get better at learning to be in the moment—and just be.
If you find yourself panicking while in a crowd, try to find a way to distract yourself. If you’re still working your way through anxiety, wearing headphones while going into a crowd might be helpful. Bringing along an adult coloring book might be a good idea too. It’s fine and helpful to use a distraction strategy, especially if you’ll be in a crowd for a length of time, such as while riding on a bus or on an airplane.
See a Mental Health Professional
Finally, if you’re doing all the things above and nothing is changing for you, I suggest reaching out to a mental health professional. Treatments such as medication or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) could make a world of difference in your anxious thoughts and behaviors.
How about you? Do you have enochlophobia? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear your stories.
Related Articles about Specific Fears
- How to Deal with the Fear of Halloween
- 9 Types of Social Anxiety Disorders
- How to Overcome a Public Speaking Phobia
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