What is enoclophobia? What type of phobia is it?
It is a specific phobia, suffered by those people who feel a great fear of crowds. However, we must differentiate it from agoraphobia (in which the fear appears when faced with the possibility of not being able to escape in an emergency situation or when suffering a panic attack).
In this article we will explain some of the characteristics of this phobia, and we will also analyze which causes can originate it, which are its characteristic symptoms and its treatments.
- Recommended article: “Hydrophobia (fear of water): what it is, causes and symptoms”.
Enoclophobia (also called demophobia) is the fear of crowds. That is, it is a specific phobia (an anxiety disorder); its main symptom is a fear, as well as intense fear or high anxiety in situations where there are many people.
As for its characteristics, enoclophobia is more frequent in women than in men.On the other hand, it usually develops in early adulthood.
It may be that people with enoclophobia hide this discomfort associated with being surrounded by people (i.e. they endure such situations with high anxiety), or it may be that they simply avoid such situations.
The main symptoms of enoclophobia are: restlessness, nervousness, sweating, dizziness, anxiety, etc. Sufferers may even feel that they will soon have a panic attack.
Is it normal to fear crowds?
Is it normal to fear crowds? The poet and writer Walter Savage Landor said “I know you can call me proud, but I hate crowds”.. But is hating the same as fearing? Logically no, and as we know in phobias the main symptom is an excessive fear of something.
So, although generally in phobias fears are irrational and/or disproportionate, it is also true that they always hide some truth or reality. That is to say, the feared stimuli, in some occasion, can also do damage, what happens is that in the phobia the fear that appears is excessive, rigid and too intense (it cannot be modulated).
Thus, trying to answer the question of whether it is normal to fear crowds (understanding “normal” as “habitual” or “normative”), we will say that it is partly normal to fear crowds, since in cases of human avalanche, for example, we can be in danger.
Although this type of situation does not have to happen, when we are in a closed place, not very big, etc., we can feel that anxiety, and it is logical. We can become overwhelmed. What happens is that, in the case of enoclophobia, the fear is exaggerated, and produces an interference in the life of the individual.
Like any specific phobia, enoclophobia presents a series of characteristic symptoms.. These are cognitive (e.g. thinking “I am going to die”), physiological (e.g. tachycardia) and behavioral (e.g. avoidance). We are going to see them in more detail in this section.
Thus, in addition to the irrational, intense and disproportionate fear of crowds (which can be awakened by the simple idea of being with many people, or seeing crowds on television, etc.), other types of symptoms are added. At the cognitive level, for example, there may appear attentional and/or concentration difficulties, a feeling of dazedness, confusion, narrowing of attention, etc.
On the other hand, at the physical/psychophysiological level, symptoms such as headaches, chest tightness, sweating, etc. appear in enoclophobia. At the behavioral level, we speak of the characteristic avoidance of phobias; in the case of enoclophobia, the person would avoid situations where there are large crowds of people (e.g. demonstrations, discos, shopping malls, etc.).
It should be clear that by crowds we refer here to very many people together, and “in close proximity” (i.e., not simply “many people”, but people close to each other).
By way of summary, some of the most important symptoms of enoclophobia are:
- Thoughts of death
- Irrational thoughts
- High anxiety
- Intense fear
- Chest pain
Specific phobias are anxiety disorders that are acquired for one reason or another; that is, it is not that we are “born” with one, but rather that we “learn” it. Generally, phobias are acquired through traumatic experiences related to the phobic stimulus or situation.
In the case of enoclophobia, it is likely that the person has experienced a traumatic situation related to crowds, such as; feeling short of breath at a given moment with many people nearby, being “crushed” in a kind of human current, being hurt by a crowd, having a panic attack in similar situations, etc.
Let’s remember the tragedy of the “Madrid Arena”, in 2012, in which 5 girls died as a result of a human avalanche in an enclosed space (a pavilion), where there were more people legally allowed. in an enclosed space (a pavilion), where there were more people than legally allowed. Experiences like this, for the survivors, can lead to enoclophobia.
The main psychological treatments to combat specific phobias are: cognitive therapy (or cognitive-behavioral therapy) and exposure therapy.
In the case of cognitive therapy, we will work with the patient to eliminate the irrational thoughts associated with crowds, as well as the erroneous beliefs he/she has in relation to them (for example, thinking that one will die imminently [typical symptom of panic attack], thinking that he/she will be crushed or drowned by people, etc.).
In other words, these beliefs will be analyzed to assess, together with the patient, their degree of realism or plausibility, and an attempt will be made to change them for other more realistic, adaptive and positive beliefs. The objective will also be to eliminate that great fear of being among so many people, although it is not bad to avoid large crowds of people (in fact many people avoid them), but it is bad not to be able to lead a “normal” life because of it (at least, it is not adaptive, and can harm one’s quality of life).
In terms of exposure therapy, different versions of exposure techniques are used. These consist of exposing the patient to the feared situation; in the case of enoclophobia, the patient would be progressively exposed to being among many people.
All this is done through a hierarchy of items; one could start by seeing crowded places from afar, and gradually increase “the difficulty” (increasing the proximity, the number of people, the contact, etc.).
We must not forget that for these treatments to be effective, the patient must really want to overcome his or her enoclophobia. This decision must be their own, as this is the only way to achieve the necessary motivation for change.