Have you ever heard of anthropophobia? This is a type of phobia in which the individual feels fear of people..
This fear can interfere significantly in the person’s life, and its main cause is the fact of having suffered prolonged harassment and/or mistreatment (although there may be other causes).
In this article we tell you all the details about this disorder; what it consists of, how it differs from social phobia, and finally what are its symptoms, causes and treatments.
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Anthropophobia: what is it?
Anthropophobia is defined as the fear of people or human beings; it is a type of phobia, classified as such in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders). It differs from social phobia in that, in anthropophobia, people actually cause fear; in social phobia, on the other hand, more than people, what causes fear or anxiety is their evaluation of oneself, as well as making a fool of oneself, etc.
Thus, in anthropophobia there is a disproportionate, intense and sometimes irrational fear of people, whether they are strangers or trusted persons. That is to say, the fear can appear before all types of people and relationships..
There is also fear of the bond that can be created with them, and the possibility of being judged by them (but there is always a basic fear of people “in themselves”).
Sometimes, the person with anthropophobia may recognize that his or her fear is irrational, but is nevertheless unable to control it.
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Anthropophobia as a specific phobia
Before explaining the symptoms of anthropophobia, let’s take a brief look at what a phobia consists of. A phobia is an exaggerated and intense fear of stimuli that are generally harmless to the person. It is possible to have phobia to practically anything. Phobias are anxiety disorders..
However, for a phobia to be diagnosed, the symptoms of fear or anxiety must last at least 6 months.In addition to these symptoms, there is interference in daily life caused by this phobia, intense discomfort, avoidance of the phobic stimulus (or resistance to it with high anxiety), as well as physiological symptoms and cognitive symptoms (e.g. dysfunctional thoughts in relation to the phobic stimulus).
Phobias can be of different types; specifically, in the DSM-5 we find three large groups of phobias. We have social phobia (anxiety before social situations or relationships with people, especially strangers), specific phobia (such as anthropophobia; fear of a concrete and specific stimulus) and agoraphobia (fear of being in public places or where it is difficult or embarrassing to escape).
As we can see, anthropophobia is a specific phobia; in turn, within the specific phobias, we find 5 subtypes of the same:
- Animal type
- Natural/environmental type
- Blood type-injections-wounded
- Situational type
- Other types
Specifically, anthropophobia is included in the group “other types of phobias”, because it cannot be included in any of the previous groups.
The 2 differences with social phobia
Before explaining the symptoms of anthropophobia, let us emphasize its two main differences with social phobia, as they are disorders that are often confused.
The first difference lies in the fact that in anthropophobia, there is a fear of people, coupled with a fear of being judged (which may or may not be present); in social phobia, on the other hand, it is not that people are feared, but that there is high anxiety about the possibility of making a fool of oneself in front of them.
The second difference is that in anthropophobia, one can fear all kinds of people (known, unknown, familiar ….).In social phobia, on the other hand, anxiety is usually felt in the presence of unfamiliar people.
The symptoms of anthropophobia correspond to the symptoms of a specific phobia. Specifically, a person with anthropophobia will have three main symptoms.
Intense fear of people
The main symptom of anthropophobia is an intense fear of people. This fear is extrapolated to people of the closest circle, to unknown people, to friends, etc. In each case of anthropophobia can vary.
The fear can sometimes lead to other psychophysiological symptoms, as we will see later.
2. Avoidance of contact with people
There is also an avoidance of contact with people, be they acquaintances, strangers, friends, relatives, etc. That is to say, it can be extrapolated to all types of people.
Let us recall at this point that the essential difference between anthropophobia and social phobia lies in the fact that the people feared in anthropophobia can be everyone, whereas in social phobia it is usually unknown persons (and more than fear, what is felt is anxiety at the possibility of being judged).
3. Psychophysiological symptoms
Psychophysiological symptoms are practically always associated with phobias. This also occurs in the case of anthropophobia, where symptoms such as: palpitations, dizziness, vomiting, nausea, hyperactivation, overexcitement, tension, etc. can manifest themselves.
These symptoms appear at the possibility of being in contact with people (although depending on the case the degree of intensity and the situation provoking them may vary).
The causes of anthropophobia can be multiplealthough the most probable is the fact of having suffered a traumatic situation.
Examples of traumatic situations related to people can be: having suffered bullying (school bullying), having suffered mobbing (harassment at work), having suffered physical, sexual and/or psychological abuse, having witnessed these types of abuse in other people, etc.
In other words, these are situations where people caused harm, either to oneself or to others. Another possible cause of anthropophobia is a great deficit in social skills (usually in addition to another cause).
What treatment(s) are available for anthropophobia? As with any specific phobia, there are two treatments of choice in psychotherapy: exposure techniques and cognitive therapy (cognitive restructuring).
In the case of exposure therapy, the techniques consist of exposing the subject with anthropophobia to the phobic stimulus (in this case, people), gradually and through a hierarchy of items (elaborated by the patient together with the therapist).
The aim is that the fear, anxiety and psychophysiological symptoms that are triggered by the presence of people, eventually disappear (the subject checks how he/she is not in danger, gets used to these sensations and they are extinguished).
Temporary escape from the anxiogenic situation is sometimes allowed (when anxiety reaches too high levels), as long as the subject returns to the initial situation before the phobic stimulus.
There are different versions of exposure techniques (live, virtual reality, symbolic, etc.), although the one that has been shown to be most effective is live exposure.
As for cognitive therapy, its basis is cognitive restructuring; this technique allows working with the patient’s irrational beliefs in relation to the phobic stimulus. That is to say, the objective is to combat those thoughts and beliefs that have originated and/or maintained the fear of people.
3. Other treatments: EHS
On the other hand, although it is not the treatment of choice, training in social skills (EHS) is also very positive, since sometimes patients with anthropophobia have a deficit in this type of skills, which may be the origin and/or factor that maintains the disorder.