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The fear of being alone can produce minor discomfort to severe anxiety. In its worst forms it is called mono- or autophobia, and is considered an anxiety disorder on par with other conditions like agoraphobia. The definition of this fear is slightly more vague because it could mean fear of being alone at any time, even if people are in the next room, or worry that a person will not have friends or mates. Identifying the exact nature of the fear is the first step to overcoming it. Then, if the fear is profound, using therapeutic tools like cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy or hypnosis can help gradually lessen this phobia.
First, it’s important to point out that all people have at least mild concern about being alone, sometimes. It isn’t always necessary to overcome fear of being alone that is not interfering with life or activities. If the fear is overwhelming and leads to a sense that it’s impossible to be alone at any time, symptoms like racing heart, excess perspiration, panic attacks, and hyperventilation, or inhibition of daily activities, then it’s sensible to conquer this fear.
A first step is determining what fear of being alone means to the individual. Some people cannot be in a room, house or building alone, and others are more afraid that they will never have significant others in their life. A combination of the two might be present, and it’s not always possible to determine all the factors that create the fear without some help. What can be noted is when the fear is most active and what situations appear to cause panic symptoms. This information is useful to give to therapists who can help conquer the fear.
There are different ways to treat phobias. Most people work with a therapist who is skilled in behavioral therapies or hypnosis. Two different types of behavior therapy are most common. These are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy.
In CBT, a person learns to identify hot thoughts and core beliefs that reinforce the fear of being alone. Over time, such identification leads to evolution of new core beliefs that are more accurate. Exposure therapy allows people to experience the thing they fear in various forms for very short periods of time, gradually lengthening exposure time as the person can tolerate more.
An alternative to behavioral therapies is hypnosis, which might work on the root of the phobia and employ hypnotic suggestion to conquer the fear. Communication between therapist/client and some forms of talk therapy can be an element of any of these treatments. It helps direct and individualize care.
There are other methods advocated to overcome fear of being alone, including a variety of self-help methods. Most of these aren’t proven as effective as therapeutic support. They work in opposition to this specific fear because the person is likely to feel alone pursuing self-help, which may exacerbate the phobia. Having a supportive therapist instead, is likely a better choice.
I know one thing a therapist does with someone who is anxious or phobic about being alone is to talk with them about what frightens them and why. They may be able to bring the person back to a place where they remember why they were first afraid to be alone. Sometimes, talking that out really helps a person overcome the fear of being alone.
If someone is afraid they will never be in a relationship, that's another issue entirely. I'd say the focus then is to help the person cultivate good personality traits that will help make them attractive to others, as well as boosting their self confidence in being able to attract someone.
Overcoming a fear of being alone may be as simple as keeping a TV or music on when no one else is in the house. That helps me. If I'm alone in a hotel room, I've been known to keep the TV on at a low volume all night, just because I sleep a little better. I guess it all depends on how severe the fear is, and whether it's a fear of actually being by oneself, or anxiety about being in an empty house. Sometimes, when my husband is gone, I'll keep some music on. That really does help me.
In a serious anxiety or phobia situation, though, I think getting therapy is probably the best answer for a person who is really suffering from this.
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