Most people enjoy being alone once in a while, but others fear even brief periods of solitude. Autophobia often surfaces when a person feels ignored, unloved, and dissatisfied with themselves. If being alone makes you feel horrified and extreme isolation, you may have a car phobia. Fortunately, you can overcome this problem with dedication, perseverance and the right support.
Part 1 of 3: Evaluating your condition
Step 1. Determine the severity of your fear
Having a good idea of your symptoms will point you in the direction of the best form of treatment, and indicate how much you can do about this phobia yourself, without the risk of physical harm. Check whether the following characteristics are recognizable, and whether they have persisted for 6 months or more:
- Strong, disproportionate fear of being alone, or at the prospect of being alone.
- An immediate fear response to being alone or the prospect of being alone, which may take the form of a panic attack.
- You realize that the fear is excessive compared to the dangers of being alone.
- Avoiding being alone or accompanied by intense fear or panic.
- The avoidance, fearful expectation, or panic at the idea of being alone interferes with your normal routine, or functioning at work (or college), social interaction, and relationships.
- Panic about the autophobia itself.
Step 2. Listen to your doubts
Is there a negative prejudice about being alone that bothers you? For example, you may be afraid of being seen as a loner because you are alone, or as not sociable and strange. Some worry that they will be seen by others as selfish and inconsiderate because they take time for themselves.
Thinking about the messages you pass on to yourself while alone is a worthwhile project. Doing this will allow you to see above and beyond the more superficial reasons why you think you don't like being alone
Step 3. Keep a journal about your anxiety
Ask yourself whether or not you feel capable of creating your own happiness and taking care of yourself. Then force yourself to think about what it is that others do for you that you cannot do alone. Think about what it is about being alone that makes you so scared. Answering questions like these in a journal can give you insight into, and clarity about, your anxiety:
- How long have you suffered from this fear?
- What was going on when it started?
- How has it changed since then?
Step 4. Consider your role in intimate relationships
People who are afraid of being alone often view their relationships as something that requires a lot of maintenance. Do you feel that you have to put a lot of time and energy into caring for the other person?
- Try to be realistic about what you think others need from you by thinking about their ability to support themselves and take care of themselves. You may also want to think about others who are there to care for them, or maybe the fact that they also made it before they met you.
- This tendency to give others the love and attention you want yourself is problematic. This can be a way in which you are robbed of the seclusion you need to develop your own values, as well as your own unique personality. In fact, this tendency ironically prevents you from being able to express your focus in a meaningful way, thereby turning it onto others.
Part 2 of 3: Facing your fear
Step 1. Prepare to face your fears
Try to convince yourself of the value of overcoming your fears. Make a list of the pros and cons of being alone. Think about the consequences of this fear for your relationships, passions, and self-development.
Step 2. Define specific goals
For example, you may decide that you want to be alone for 15 minutes, without calling, texting, or chatting with anyone, and how long it will take you to process those 15 minutes. For example, you can perform this process 4 times a week.
- Gradually expose yourself to being alone and consider how negative your fear is. This process takes time and should not be rushed. Plan to be alone for short periods. Little by little you will make these periods longer, until you no longer feel overwhelmed by panic.
- Create an exposure hierarchy in which you rank feared situations on a scale of 0-100 according to your fear of being exposed to them. For example, you could spend an hour at home as 100, but only go to the movies as 70. With such a classification, you can work towards gradually overcoming the greater fears by addressing the less severe fears.
Step 3. Expose yourself to the fear
Try to expose yourself to fear that is less severe. At first you will feel incredibly nervous and anxious, and this is normal. At some point your body will relax. After a few particularly unpleasant attempts, this will become a way of convincing yourself that you are capable of spending time alone. Exposing yourself to your fear will also help you think more deeply about your fears underlying the original panic.
- Try not to worry too much about how panicked you feel and how stressed your body has become. Because you are deliberately exposing yourself to something you fear, symptoms such as shortness of breath, an accelerated heart rate, and other physical symptoms of anxiety will be normal.
- The longer you are alone, the more intense your fear will be that you feel. But with exposure to it, fear is to be expected and will diminish over time. Carefully push your limits until you are satisfied with how much time you can be alone. Imagine going for a swim – dipping your toes in the water can be fun, but it won't get you used to the temperature.
- Another option is FearFighter, an automatic program with self-help methods that can help you fight phobias. It is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and has been shown to be effective.
Step 4. Develop a support to reassure you mentally
Because exposure to being alone can be so stressful, you may need a reliable way to distract yourself from that moment. Recite a few lines of a poem, do some math by heart, or whisper encouraging phrases to yourself, such as "this feeling will pass, I've had this on hand before."
Remember, the less often you use the mental support, the more intense the exposure sessions will be
Step 5. Track your progress in a journal
During and after your exposure sessions, track your perceived level of anxiety on a scale of 0 to 10. 0 is completely relaxed and 10 is as anxious as you can imagine being. By doing this, you can gauge how desensitized you have become to being alone, and how much fear you are able to safely handle.
- Watch for trends in the sessions when anxiety runs particularly high or low. Are there other factors that influence your anxiety, such as the weather or who you spent time with earlier in the day?
- You can also use the journal to write encouraging thoughts, problems, and anything else that "comes to your mind" related to the fear. This will help you to better understand yourself and underlying patterns.
Part 3 of 3: Building Coping Skills and Support
Step 1. Enlist the help of your support system
Do you want to spend some time alone? Let the people you otherwise spend time with know that you don't want them to grant your requests to keep you company. Talking to people close to you about the problem will help you understand it and respond positively to the changes in the relationship that may occur.
Explain how much the relationship means to you and that spending more time alone will enhance, rather than undermine, your ability to bond. Express your gratitude for the other person's understanding that you want to work on this first
Step 2. Be direct about what your relationship needs
Change your habit of blindly asking for the attention of others to assertively expressing what it is you need from the other person. Talk to the people in your life about your needs and what you expect from each other. You'll probably find that they don't constantly require you to be together or as close as you thought. By making clear requests, you make it clear that what you want is simple and not a heavy burden on others.
Step 3. Develop your own unique interests
Spending time alone is valuable in itself because it teaches you more about yourself and what you enjoy doing. Use the time for yourself productively so that you don't become anxious or scared. Allow yourself to find your own interests, passions, talents, desires, desires and dreams.
- Why do you need time alone? Everyone needs time to think, build understanding of themselves and grow from within. Think about how much you've learned about yourself while making decisions that you don't have to negotiate with anyone else.
- Do you already have a passion that you can only engage in if you have time for yourself to express yourself and figure out the tricky parts of what you do, to create the best you can? Think of seclusion as a gift you give to yourself to pursue your passions.
Step 4. Practice mindfulness
Before you give in to your urge to call someone or plan your day so that people are around all the time, take some time for yourself. Write down why you feel rushed when no one is around. Try to understand what it is that you are feeling, accept it calmly without trying to get rid of it. This will make your ability to pause and reconsider the next time you want to run away from yourself.
- There are also other relaxation exercises and stress-reducing techniques that can do wonders for your ability to cope. Getting exercise, especially cardio, such as running and swimming, will release endorphins and other chemicals that will greatly improve your mood.
- Meditation, yoga, and conscious breathing are more relaxing ways to reduce your anxiety and can help you control your impulse to act out of need.
Step 5. Use positive visualization
To boost your confidence on the bumpy ride of overcoming your car phobia, use your imagination to envision what you want for yourself. Visualize yourself confidently and successfully in situations on your own and learn to appreciate what it feels like to be independent. Visualizing a more confident, independent self will make you more likely to become the person you see so clearly before you.
Step 6. Find a counselor
Therapy provides a safe place for you to explore and overcome the underlying issues at the root of your autophobia. A specialist can serve as a guide on that journey.