What It Means To Have 'Monophobia' — And Why So Many People Have It

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lonely woman looking out the window

I remember after my baby daddy left me, shortly after I had my daughter. I was angry, very angry. But, more than that, I realized I had a serious existential dread about me. I genuinely believed that my chances of having a spouse were over.

It was rough. I’ve been that person who cried at night for a spouse I thought would never come. I also was that person who would get angry just looking at happy couples in the mall. It sucks to know, but it’s true. I was kind of a ball of rage and fear.

While most peoples’ experiences might not be as extreme as mine, the truth is that the fear of being single is a very common feeling. That’s why it may be a good idea to talk about what this is, per therapists.

What is monophobia?

According to WebMD, monophobia "is the fear of being isolated, lonely, or alone." Other names for monophobia are autophobia, isolophobia, or eremophobia.

Full disclosure, I actually learned about the term “monophobia” from a person who reached out to me from Choosing Therapy. They basically explained that the fear I spoke about in another article was called monophobia, and it’s actually a clinical diagnosis.

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In psychology, phobias don’t just mean discomfort or feeling angry or sad. It’s a bit deeper than that.

According to Harvard Health, “A phobia is an anxiety disorder defined by a persistent and excessive fear of an object or situation.” They are long-term, lasting at least six months, and they involve a pervasive concern that you might experience a certain fear.

A person with these specific phobias doesn’t just hate being alone, they feel fear or have anxiety even thinking about it. The thought of it can give them panic attacks and causes them to obsess over getting someone — anyone! They can get very clingy, very quickly.

Some symptoms of monophobia, according to WebMD, include:

  • Intense feelings of fear triggered by a specific event or situation (like being alone)
  • Intense anxiety that is disproportionate to the danger or threat
  • Recognition that the fear isn't warranted or is disproportionate
  • Avoidance of the situation
  • Extreme distress
  • A fear that impacts the person's ability to go to school, work, or have a social life
  • Fear that has persisted for longer than six months
  • A fear that is not the result of another disorder

People with monophobia may also experience physical symptoms like sweating, shaking, chills, difficulty breathing, a choking sensation, tachycardia, chest pains, nausea, dry mouth, dizziness, or confusion.

Monophobia is often diagnosed by a mental health professional that will run the patient through a test to see whether or not symptoms meet the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

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What causes monophobia?

It varies. Some people are naturally going to be needier than others due to an overall anxious personality or a dependent personality disorder. Like other phobias, many people who suffer from monophobia may have experienced an extremely anxiety-inducing situation.

The problem could be genetic, seeing as a tendency towards higher levels of fear can be inherited from your parents — or even seeing a family member have a response to certain fears could teach you to respond the same way.

It could also be biological. Neurotransmitters respond in unexpected ways to outside inputs.

The truth is that knowing why isn’t as important as knowing how to get over it. Telling a person who has monophobia that they don’t need a partner doesn’t help.

In a lot of cases, people tend to assume people have monophobia when, in reality, it’s frustration from having dating mess after dating mess. It’s normal to get angry and annoyed when you’re sitting there, trying to find a single decent partner, only to be told you’re not what others want. Or, you know, in the case of women, find only people who treat you poorly.

I’ve been the person who’s gotten so angry about their dating life that they’ve pushed square pegs through round holes — like when I dated a football jock type and broke down screaming at him for acting embarrassed about dating a goth chick. Monophobia is a bit different because it’s blind panic.

When you have monophobia, you will have a panic attack when someone breaks up with you. Or, even if you have them reply a little too late. It’s a very triggering experience.

Why do so many people have monophobia?

Monophobia is considered by experts to be among the group of mental health conditions known as the agoraphobic cluster. Agoraphobia is the fear of being in public or in outside spaces.

These are relatively rare anxiety disorders that could come about for any myriad of reasons, but the truth is, there are a lot of reasons to have monophobia in today’s climate. There is strength in numbers, and facing life single isn’t always easy. We are naturally social creatures, too.

But there’s nothing wrong with wanting a partner to be there for you. It becomes a problem when it turns into a need and you’re staying up late, freaking out over it.

A lot of us in society are love-starved and have absolutely no idea how to find the acceptance and love we need. It’s understandable why some people would dread having that be the way they live for the rest of their lives, especially if they haven’t learned how to cope or expand a social network.

Many of us, particularly women, have been socialized to see having a partner as a sign of success. In families where parents’ love was conditional, having a partner can seem like the best way to get the adoration and acceptance you never had. It can be scary to realize that you might not get that.

RELATED: 18 Freeing Things That Only Happen When You Learn To Accept Being Alone

How To Treat & Cope With Monophobia

There are many different treatment options for people suffering from monophobia — therapy, however, seems to be the most common solution.

According to Choosing Therapy, these are the different ways in which people can get treated for monophobia.

1. Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is exactly what it sounds like: the patient is being exposed to the subject of their fear in order to gradually reduce the level at which the fear is felt.

Psychologists will set up completely safe environments with controlled variables in order to safely expose the person afflicted to their fear.

Systematic desensitization is one very slowly paced form of exposure therapy that combines the exposure with methods of relaxation that will eventually associate the fear with the feeling of being relaxed.

2. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an effective form of therapy that aims to tackle issues by way of thinking, changing the way you think about a certain feeling by first understanding why or how you feel the way you feel.

The core concept of CBT is that psychological problems are often a result of unhelpful ways of thinking, as explained by the American Psychological Association.

3. Group therapy

Patients will go to several meetings with peers who also struggle with monophobia, and will share their challenges with each other while also receiving support from them.

4. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a method that involves moving your eyes a specific way while you process traumatic memories in order to alter the way you process and think about certain memories and feelings.

Through the use of bi-lateral stimulation to the brain, EMDR aims to reprocess memories in order to produce positive cognitive and emotional changes.

5. Medication

Last but not least, medication can be an effective method for treating monophobia.

Choosing Therapy claims that antidepressants like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used to treat phobias.

Beta-blockers, an alternative to SSRIs, work as anti-anxiety medications designed to block the physical symptoms of anxiety.

Benzodiazepines act as sedatives and can promote relaxation, but are highly addictive and should only be used under a physician's supervision.

Coping can come in many different ways, but managing your stress and learning methods for relaxation rest at the top of that list. Practicing mindfulness and journaling your thoughts and feelings will also help you look at your fears from an objective lens.

Trust me when I say I understand that fear, perhaps a bit too well. It’s also a fear that’s being emphasized in today’s climate. And it sucks because you can’t just take a magic pill to get rid of your fears.

Unfortunately, life is all about facing your fears and learning to build yourself up after getting knocked down a bunch. You can’t expect others to be the cure to what ails you.

RELATED: I Love Being Alone — But It’s A Trauma Response

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer based out of Red Bank, New Jersey whose work has been featured in Yahoo, BRIDES, Your Daily Dish, New Theory Magazine, and others. Follow her on Twitter for more.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.