What is Enochlophobia?

Enochlophobia is an abnormal fear of crowds or mobs. Enochlophobia is closely related to agoraphobia, the fear of public places and open spaces. Regardless of the cause, enochlophobia can prevent the sufferer from functioning normally in even the smallest of crowds, such as those found in the lobbies of movie theaters, restroom lines, or small meetings or classes.

What determines the size of the crowd is dependent on the phobic’s perceived level of threat. Enochlophobia is more likely to affect introverts or painfully shy people. The fear of crowds may be related to a fear of feeling insignificant or unimportant. Other mood or anxiety disorders may trigger someone’s enochlophobia, or it might be a standalone disorder. Early exposure to a traumatic experience wherein a crowd played a distressing role could be the underlying cause of enochlophobia.

Those with an irrational fear of crowds may rationalize their fears by making note of the potential for being attacked, contracting a disease or becoming lost, etc.

Mobs may be a particular source of fear, as they represent chaos and a lack of control. There are many historical examples of peaceful assemblies that have turned into angry, violent mobs, such as the famous Peterloo Massacre (1819) where a friendly gathering of 70,000 people erupted into chaos when the British military were sent in to break up the crowd and wound up killing 11 people. As the first massacre in England to reach such a violent end, Peterloo created a nation-wide distrust and fear of crowds or political gatherings. Mobs are a source of real danger wherein innocent people may be violently trampled, beaten, or killed.

An echochlophobe’s fear of crowds may prevent them from pursuing traditional forms of education and employment, which leads to further social alienation and isolation.

Enochlophobia is considered a social phobia and it is also called demophobia or ochlophobia.

If you know someone who is suffering from enochlophobia, do not try to help them “face their fears” by forcing them into a crowd. Despite your best intentions, it’s likely that your attempts will cause more trauma to the phobic, as well as feelings of shame, embarrassment, humiliation, guilt, and fear. The phobic may be aware that their fears are irrational, however, that won’t be enough to cure them of their phobia. Only a professional mental health practitioner with experience should diagnose and prescribe a series of treatments. Social phobias like enochlophobia are often comorbid with other mood or mental health disorders, such as depression, or generalized anxiety disorder. Therefore, it is even more important not to interfere with the phobic’s treatment.
The root word ochlo is Greek meaning “crowd”.

Symptoms of Enochlophobia

Emotional / behavioral

  • fear of being judged
  • fear of embarrassment
  • fear of offending others
  • intense fear of strangers
  • fear of being noticed
  • fear of physical symptoms
  • avoiding people
  • intense need to escape
  • extreme irritability
  • extreme anxiety
  • expecting bad outcomes
  • fear of losing control
  • fear of death

Physical symptoms

  • heart palpitations
  • chest pains
  • gastrointestinal distress
  • nausea or diarrhea
  • shortness of breath
  • choking sensations
  • excessive sweating
  • confusion or lack of focus
  • chills or heat flush
  • feeling faint or dizzy
  • trembling or shaking
  • tingling sensations
  • headaches

Learn more about phobia symptoms

Causes of Enochlophobia

The chronic use of tranquilizers or sleeping pills (such as benzodiazepines) has been linked to agoraphobia and related disorders.
Previous trauma such as becoming lost in a crowd, being part of a crowd that turns violent, being trampled by a crowd, or being injured in a crowd are direct causes.

Enochlophobia is a social anxiety disorder. Social phobias result in avoidance of social situations due to fear of being embarrassed in public. Social phobia affects men and women equally. Extreme social anxieties often start in childhood or adolescence and may be accompanied by other anxiety disorders or depression.

While many people, especially introverts, feel some degree of nervousness or discomfort in large crowds, enochlophobia is an irrational fear that causes physical symptoms and a belief that all crowds, no matter what the size or nature of the gather, will erupt in violence or chaos. Depending on the severity of the phobia, enochlophobia can negatively interfere with a person’s life, and may prevent them from enjoying activities with friends and family, which could lead to social isolation and loneliness. These side effects may perpetuate or worsen a phobic’s aversion or fear of crowds.

The origins of social anxiety disorders are not as well-understood as specific (or “isolated”) phobias, where a direct fear of injury from some specific animal, thing or situation forms a clear basis for the fear. Even so, hereditary factors may be present, such as a genetic tendency to be “high strung” or nervous, etc.

In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and/or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation or seeing something on the news or on TV and movies.

Enochlophobia, like most phobias, stems from a subconscious overprotection mechanism, and as with many phobias can also be rooted in an unresolved emotional conflict.

Learn more about the causes of phobias

Treatment for Enochlophobia

  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
  • Habit strategies to relax
  • Cognitive therapy (CT)
  • In vivo exposure
  • Response prevention
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Energy Psychology
  • Medication
  • Meditation

As a social anxiety disorder, enochlophobia can be overcome through CBT with the help of an experienced therapist. The aim of CBT is to change thought patterns that trigger their side effects. A therapist may work with the phobic to become desensitized to crowds and may prescribe medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Medications should only be taken as a last resort, as they may present certain side effects and/or withdrawal symptoms.

Learn more about phobia treatments

Book Shelf

The list of books below are hand picked by the staff at Massive Phobia. It’s a mixture of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Habit Strategies, Trauma Healing, Mindfulness, Meditation, Buddhist Knowledge and Somatic Study. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.