Do You Have a Fear of Crowds?

As the pandemic seems to come to a close, people may be able to start gathering in larger crowds soon.

Take a moment to reflect on how that makes you feel. After more than a year of people avoiding crowds for good reason, it’s natural to feel a little nervous about getting back to this part of society. How do you know when that uneasy feeling is a full-blown phobia?

Learning what the fear of crowds is and what it feels like can help you be on the lookout for this fear in yourself and loved ones as society comes out of the pandemic.

What is Ochlophobia?

The word “ochlophobia” comes from the Greek words ochlos, meaningcrowd” and phobos meaning “fear.” Together, it means “fear of crowds.” This also may be a fear of mobs or any type of environment where there is a large crowd of people.

In order for someone to have a phobia of any kind, the fear must be disproportionate to the actual danger. For example, someone who avoids large crowds at the height of a deadly pandemic is acting with caution for their safety and others. However, if that same person continues to avoid crowds at all costs long after the threat is gone, they may have a phobia.

What Causes the Fear of Crowds?

For many people, a traumatic experience in a crowd may cause them to be afraid of crowds for long after. For example, someone who survived a violent crime while in a crowd may go on to develop ochlophobia. However, people may develop this fear without experiencing such trauma; there is no single cause.

In the wake of COVID-19, it seems logical that more people may develop ochlophobia. After more than a year of crowds being particularly dangerous, it can be difficult to change course and enjoy things like that once again. While many people may be ready to go to concerts and games, others may not feel the same.

Symptoms of the Fear of Crowds

Symptoms of ochlophobia occur when someone is in a crowd or thinking about going to a crowded place. People experience the fear of crowds in different ways and may have different symptoms from one another.

Common symptoms of ochlophobia include:

  • Weakness or dizziness
  • An overpowering sense of terror and fear
  • An urgent need to escape
  • Racing heart
  • Trambling or shaking
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold, heavy sweat
  • Fainting

People with ochlophobia may have panic attacks when exposed to crowds.

Coping with the Fear of Crowds

If you find yourself in a crowded place and start to feel scared, the feelings can get overwhelming quickly without intervention. Be prepared by knowing what to do.

If you’re afraid of crowds, you can try these strategies:

  • Take deep, measured breaths
  • Time your outings for the least crowded time
  • Begin with small group events
  • Once you become comfortable in smaller groups, ease into going to events with larger amounts of people

If you’re worried about getting anxious in crowds, you can try bringing someone with you when you start. Having a friend or relative can help to ease your anxiety. Make sure it is someone who understands how you may be feeling and will not be judgmental but instead will be supportive.

If you experience intense or prolonged anxiety while in crowds, consider seeking the help of a therapist. A licensed therapist can help you understand and overcome your fears.

Authored By 

LifeStance Health
LifeStance Health

LifeStance is a mental healthcare company focused on providing evidence-based, medically driven treatment services for children, adolescents, and adults suffering from a variety of mental health issues in an outpatient care setting, both in-person and through its digital health telemedicine offering.