Crowds, whether in the mall, at a sporting event, at the movies or theatre, in the subway, on the street or at a friends or relative's home, can be frightening and for those with anxiety can be a trigger for panic attacks. The fear of crowds is called enochlophobia or demophobia.
A fear of crowds can occur for any number of reasons, but some common reasons are:
- Getting lost
- Being trampled or crushed
- Not being able to breath
- Becoming ill from touching someone
- Feeling insecure around so many people you do not know
Women experience the fear of crowds more often than men, as with other forms of anxiety. Although most people suffering from fear of anxiety understand their fears are irrational, they feel helpless and unable to control their fear.
If you have a fear of crowds and are faced with a mob of people, even a large room full of people, you may experience symptoms including:
- Feeling of not being able to breath
- Stomach upset
- Heart palpitations
- Inability to think clearly
Sometimes, intense feelings of anxiety can lead to panic attacks.
Although many people may feel a bit nervous in large crowds, the difference is in whether your fear interferes with your daily functioning. For example, do you avoid going to the movies, or avoid shopping at the mall because you are afraid of being caught in a crowd? If your fear causes you to avoid situations, or even to leave the house, you should seek medical help. Treatment for anxiety, such as medications and cognitive behavioral therapy can help.
Some things you can do if you are in a crowded place and begin to feel anxious or begin to have a panic attack:
- Focus on your breathing. Take deep breaths.
- Begin with small group events. Once you become comfortable, slowly go to events that have larger amounts of people.
- Bring someone with you. Having a friend or relative can help to ease your anxiety. Make sure it is someone that understands how you may be feeling and will not be judgmental but will be supportive of your fears.
- If you are at a social function, keep yourself busy by walking around the room. Choose one person to with at a time. Keeping your mind occupied can help keep anxiety at bay.
- Time your outings for the least crowded time. For example, shop at the mall during the day or at dinnertime rather than on a weekend evening.
Although these tips may help you in the short-term, treatment for anxiety is your best choice. This is the best long-term strategy to overcoming or managing your fear of crowds.