How To Face The Fear Of Being Alone

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sad woman sitting alone on bed
Self

Do you get overwhelmed by the fear of being alone?

A lot of people are perfectly capable of spending time by themselves. But if you struggle with a fear of being alone, you can't even imagine time by yourself without a pending panic attack.

Being alone shouldn't feel so terrifying, should it?

Some people even go out of their way to insist that they need "alone time." But if you get overwhelmed by the idea of being alone, you may have a disorder called "monophobia."

In layman's terms, this is the fear of being alone. It's not that you don't like it or would prefer to have someone else around; it's a deep-seated terror you don't feel you have any control of.

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What are the causes monophobia?

There is no specific cause of monophobia, but genetics may play a factor, as anxiety seems to run in families.

If you've got a fear of being alone, it could be that something sparked this fear within you, like a traumatic experience during your childhood.

For example, being left alone while parents are out on a date night, and then having the house broken into by burglars may plant the seeds of monophobia.

Growing up with relatives who have fears or who manage anxiety in a certain way can teach children to feel unsafe and manage their own worries similarly.

For example, let's say that Anna becomes so anxious about her partner’s upcoming business trip that she can’t think about anything else.

The first time he leaves, she has several panic attacks, feels nauseous, and can't sleep. She ends up calling him, begging him to come home.

Because Anna’s partner works in sales, traveling is a necessity. But because Anna experiences monophobia, she becomes too anxious to cope when he's away, so the couple makes arrangements for her to sleep at her best friend’s house whenever her partner has to travel.

Being with others helps you feel safe.

People with monophobia feel that they need another person or other people around in order to feel safe. There is a difference between experiencing discomfort versus having extreme terror when alone.

In order to qualify as a phobia, the anxiety needs to be excessive, unreasonable, and intense. Symptoms such as shaking, sweating, having heart palpitations, dizziness, and nausea are common.

The anxious response is immediate, and the person may have an overwhelming desire to run away.

Individuals diagnosed with this life-limiting condition admit that their worry negatively impacts work, school, or their relationships.

The solution in dealing with monophobia is not to run away from solitude or being alone.

Realistically, there will be times in your life when you face being alone.

Keep in mind that marriage isn't a guarantee of having constant companionship, either. According to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, with the rate even higher for subsequent marriages.

Worry about being alone is realistic for aging women, as the average American man will live to age 76, while the average American woman will live to age 81.

If you struggle with a fear of being alone, here are 5 strategies to help soothe your worries.

1. Reframe what being alone means to you.

Don’t assume that being alone is the same as loneliness. Individuals can spend time alone and actually feel quite content.

Embracing solitude is like finding refuge from a noisy storm. Moments of quiet engage your parasympathetic nervous system, which has a calming influence. Ask your introverted friends!

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2. Recognize what brings you joy.

Think back to times in your childhood when you engaged in simple pleasures — shooting basketball hoops or kicking a soccer ball, baking cupcakes with a beloved family member, or going to a movie theater to catch the latest rom-com.

Recreate these same memories by going on a date with yourself, bringing out your playful side. You may learn that your best company is yourself.

3. Provide kindness to someone in need.

Perhaps an older neighbor would welcome you picking up a few grocery items for them, or shoveling their walkway. A close friend may feel delighted in receiving a text or call in which you let them know how much you miss them.

Children whose family can’t afford a computer or tablet could experience a boost in their education if you donate money or a used computer to a local school or charity.

The goodwill you generate can forge new relationships, and help you feel more connected to others, and less alone in life.

4. Find an activity that invites you to go within.

It's not as scary as you think!

For example, yoga can teach you how to tolerate being alone, as it involves engaging in poses that require you to be in the present moment, not preoccupied with some dreaded scenario.

You can feel a sense of pride in learning what your body can do, while calming your busy "monkey mind." At the end of yoga practice, students are invited to relax in savasana, where you can befriend the self deep within you.

5. Channel anxious thoughts through creative activities.

Draw, paint, or journal. Each of these artistic acts shifts the mind from fear to focus.

Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones, encourages individuals to put pen to paper and write down whatever comes up, without editing or judgment.

Write out your worries and the outcomes that scare you, noting ways you might cope. Leave your feelings on paper. Then read whatever you wrote aloud to yourself, which can give you a new perspective.

This writing exercise may have an unburdening effect and create space for you to feel centered and encouraged.

Seek professional help for monophobia. 

Individuals whose lives are severely limited by monophobia would benefit from a consultation with a counselor who specializes in cognitive behavioral counseling (CBT).

Using CBT, fears are addressed and a specific plan for changing thinking and behaviors is developed. Often,

cognitive behavior therapists use exposure therapy, where you face their anxiety of being alone in small steps. Joining a support group dealing with monophobia can also be helpful.

Being alone without companionship can result in feeling sad, afraid, and perhaps lonely.

You don’t have to be imprisoned in this feeling state and limit the precious life you’ve been given. Instead, you can view being alone as an opportunity to befriend yourself and learn to embrace periods of solitude.

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Dr. Beth O'Brien is a licensed psychologist and PACT Level 3 couples' therapist. If you need help overcoming monophobia or other fears in your life, contact Dr. O'Brien today!