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What Is the Fear of Being Alone?

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Updated July 09, 2014

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Question: What Is the Fear of Being Alone?

Answer: Monophobia, or the fear of being alone, is a catch-all term for several discrete fears. Some people are afraid of being apart from a particular person. Some fear living alone or being in public alone. Still others are afraid of being alone at home. Nervousness while alone is surprisingly common, but a full-blown phobia is relatively rare.

Fear of Being Apart from Someone

Most people can identify one or a few people that act as a support system. Humans are social creatures, and we feel most comfortable when we can share our successes and challenges with someone we especially trust. Spouses often feel uncomfortable when a partner is on a business trip or otherwise away from home, children may have difficulty staying with extended family, and teens might panic when a best friend moves away.

Most of the time, these feelings are mild and relatively short-lived. Talking on the phone or online is often enough to assuage the distress. Some families create rituals, such as having the same thing for dinner or sending special e-mails at the same time each night, to honor the relationship. These rituals take on particular importance when a family member is gone for more than a few days.

For some people, however, panic sets in whenever a particular loved one leaves the house. If you have this fear, you might become anxious when your loved one goes to work, visits with friends or participates in a hobby. In extreme cases, some people are afraid for the loved one to be in a different room of the house.

This fear is common in small children. It is generally considered a normal part of development, and is not diagnosed as a condition -- usually separation anxiety disorder -- unless it lasts six months or is unusually severe. Check with your pediatrician if your child appears to be in particular distress.

Fear of Being Alone in Public

The fear of being alone in public may be linked to conditions such as social phobia or agoraphobia. If you are uncomfortable being around strangers, a friend or family member is comforting. A companion is someone for you to focus on, as well as someone to divert the attention of strangers. Many people with this fear feel awkward and uncomfortable, as if they are in the spotlight, when dining or shopping alone.

Fear of Being Alone at Home

Fears of being alone at home often, though not always, revolve around fears of emergency situations arising. Burglaries, home repair problems, and personal injury are commonly-cited fears. These fears may be heightened in people who do not fully trust themselves and their own judgment. You might worry that you will react poorly should an emergency arise.

Some people are afraid of being alone with their thoughts. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, you may try to combat your feelings by staying busy. You might fear that if you have no one to talk to, you will be unable to cope with your thoughts. Keep in mind that that this is a form of loneliness. Feeling truly "alone" may indicate a personality disorder, although the difference is subtle. Seek advice from a trained professional if you are unsure what you are feeling.

Of course, in some situations, fear may be prudent. Phobias are never diagnosed when the fear is reasonable and in proportion to the situation. If you suffer from certain medical conditions or live in a dangerous neighborhood, your concern might be entirely reasonable. Many people in these situations find ways of minimizing risk, such as getting a dog or a medical alert system.

Fear of Living Alone

The fear of living alone is often an extension of the fear of being alone at home. Some people are comfortable staying at home for an afternoon or even a couple of days, but are uncomfortable with the idea of spending protracted time periods living alone. Like the fear of being home alone, this fear is commonly rooted in a lack of self-confidence. You may worry that you will be unable to take care of the house, respond to emergencies, or even take care of your own basic needs.

Coping With the Fear of Being Alone

Regardless of which form your monophobia takes, you might find comfort in a few basic strategies. Many people find that background noise helps. At home, turn on the television or radio. Download movies or music clips. In public, consider carrying an MP3 player.

Getting involved in an absorbing activity helps to pass the time. Read a book, surf the web, or get lost in a movie. Carrying a smart phone, tablet or notebook computer gives you something to focus on while in public.

Many people find that relaxation exercises lower anxiety levels and can even ward off a panic attack. Purposeful breathing, meditation and aromatherapy are relatively easy to learn and can be used anywhere.

Getting Help

If your fear of being alone is severe, or if it affects your daily life, the best solution is to seek professional treatment. Like all phobias, the fear of being alone responds well to a variety of treatment options. Because monophobia is sometimes affiliated with other fears, your therapist will create an individualized treatment plan that addresses all of your concerns.

Source:

American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

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