When crowds are overwhelming

Mental Health and Wellness
When crowds are overwhelming

Ochlophobia (from the Greek, ochlos, 'crowd' and, phobos, ‘fear’) 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. 

There is no one specific cause of ochlophobia. Often a previous bad experience may lead to the development of the fear. For example, a person with ochlophobia may have experienced a traumatic event while in a crowd of people.  In most cases the basis of the excessive fear poses no real threat to the person.   

People with ochlophobia may show different symptoms. The symptoms are typically brought about from exposure to large crowds.  Some people may:

  • become weak and dizzy from being overwhelmed by the crowded environment

  • feel an overpowering sense of terror and fear and an urgent need to escape or break away

  • feel their hearts begin to race and they may start to shake with fear

  • become physically sick

  • become clammy and break out in a cold heavy sweat

  • develop shortness of breath

  • became nauseated or vomit

  • if not removed from the crowd, may faint

Some things you can do if you are in a crowded place and begin to feel anxious: 

  • Take deep, measured breaths.

  • Time your outings for the least crowded time. For example, shop at the mall during a weekday or at dinnertime rather than on a weekend.

  • Begin with small group events.  Once you become comfortable, ease into going to events with larger amounts of people.

  • Bring someone with you. 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 are at a social function, keep yourself busy by walking around the room. Choose one person to be with at a time. Keeping your mind occupied can help keep anxiety at bay.