Fear of People and How to Overcome It

Fear of people is more than an emotion. It’s actually a psychological condition, also known as anthropophobia, similar to shyness and social phobia. A person with this condition is afraid both of interacting with and being around other people.

The fear of people is more intense than shyness. The person with anthropophobia doesn’t just feel a bit of nervousness what chatting with someone. They are considerably afraid, and this intensity of emotions makes their condition more similar to social phobia.

But it is also different from social phobia in the sense that while someone with social phobia feels anxiety in social types of situations (for example, when being in a group, or talking to unfamiliar people, or speaking on stage), someone with anthropophobia feels anxiety when dealing with people in general, including people they’ve know for a long time, individually. So the range of the emotion is broader.

Predictably, the fear of people is a highly debilitating condition. A person who fears others in general finds it hard to interact with anyone and is unable to develop meaningful interpersonal relationships. And considering the crucial role positive social interactions and relationships play in our life, it’s unavoidable that this person frequently feels lonely, depressed and unfulfilled as a result of lacking these elements in their own life.

Symptoms and Causes

If you believe you or someone you know may suffer from anthropophobia but you’re not sure, a better understanding of this condition’s symptoms will probably clarify this for you.

Besides the obvious state of anxiety when dealing with others, there are several common symptoms of suffering from the fear of people. Individuals with this condition:

  • Feel strong anxiety in anticipation of a social interaction or event, often days in advance;
  • They typically have trouble holding eye contact with others, even with familiar people;
  • They often feel nausea or sickness when interacting with others or being around others;
  • Intense sweating, skin pallor or blushing are also common when dealing with other people;
  • They have constant thoughts of self-doubt and self-criticism when in social settings;
  • They avoid social events and interpersonal interactions, and often they even just avoid leaving the house;
  • They find the mere presence of other people highly energy draining, and talking with people even more so.
  • They seriously struggle with making conversation and being friendly with others.

What causes anthropophobia? It is believed that genetic predispositions do play a role, but it is not the dominant one. Early traumatic events from childhood regarding relating to people are often at the root of anthropophobia, but not always.

alonePersonally, having coached multiple individuals with anthropophobia and studied a lot of the psychological research on this subject, I consider that multiple causes comes into play, but the most important one concerns negative experiences relating to others.

Sometimes these could be a few traumatic experiences dealing with others, other times they could be a lot more non-traumatic but still unpleasant experiences, other times it’s a combination of the two.

In any case, these negative social experiences, perhaps on a background of above average emotional sensitivity, make the person develop a very negative perception of people and interpersonal situations.

At a conscious or subconscious level, they have come to believe that other people are a threat to them, that they will judge them and hurt them. They have come to see themselves as unlikeable and inclined to attract the antagonism of others, and social settings as dangerous for them.

Thus, they fear people and they try to avoid them as much as they can. This is the only way they can feel safe. But sadly, this also makes them completely isolated socially and ultimately very unhappy with their lives.

How to Overcome the Fear of People

The good news is that the fear of people can be overcome. The fact this fear can be so intense and all-encompassing is not in any way an indicator that’s its permanent. With proper guidance and with some consistent work, you can stop fearing people and learn to enjoy social interactions.

In order to achieve this, what you need is to develop new, more constructive thinking habits regarding people and your relation to them. As these new ways of thinking skink in, your fear of people will dissipate.

In my experience as a confidence coach, there are two types of interventions that work in learning this new type of thinking habits.

1) Progressive Exposure. When you fear people, you are inclined to avoid them. Unfortunately, this only keeps the fear alive. In order to overcome it, it’s crucial to do the very opposite and expose yourself to social settings and interpersonal interactions more.

This process needs to be progressive in order to work well. You start small, with exposure to social situations that generate a relatively small amount of anxiety, and you advance steadily. Progressive exposure essentially acclimatizes you with dealing with people and thus it becomes comfortable.

2) Correcting Your Thoughts. In addition to progressive exposure, it’s also important to directly address those negative thoughts that make you fear people. This implies noticing them when they appear, recognizing what’s faulty about them and replacing them with more rational thoughts.

Essentially, you need to consciously practice thinking in a more constructive way. And with practice, this news way of thinking overpowers the old one and becomes second nature. And so the fear dissipates.

If you wanna learn more about this proven process for overcoming the fear of people and how to use it, I suggest you watch this instructional video where I go into more detail. The information I share in it is gonna be very valuable to you so make sure you watch it.

Qualified assistance in overcoming anthropophobia constantly proves very helpful. If you can work with a competent psychologist or psychotherapist or coach, you’ll make much faster progress and the whole process will be much easier.

At least, I recommend you join my free social confidence newsletter, where I will share with you more practical advice for triumphing over anthropophobia and act as your online guide in this process.

In closing, I encourage you to bear in mind that the fear of people is something you’ve learned. And anything that you can learn, you can unlearn. It’s easier said than done, but with effective action and perseverance, it can be done.

And it’s more than worth it. When you stop fearing people, you are able to get out of the house more, meet people, talk to them, make friends, build fulfilling relationships and have a great time with others. Your life will never be the same.

Image courtesy of David Ingram

How to Overcome Shyness

Almost fifty percent of people describe themselves as shy. If it didn’t have such dire consequences on ones life, shyness would almost be a fashionable thing. However, it does have bad effects and this is why knowing how to overcome shyness is important.

Finding the Needle in the Haystack

Do a search on the web for ‘how to overcome shyness’ and you’ll discover thousands of articles and ten times more tips on this topic. Try to put them into practice and sadly, you’ll also discover that much of the advice on how to overcome shyness is vague, impractical or just plain wrong.

Doing social confidence coaching with people with shyness, I’ve realized that there’re only a handful of ideas and techniques which provide consistent and powerful results in overcoming shyness. I want to share the most effective ones with you.

Overcoming Shyness Starts with Stretching

No, not physical stretching, but emotional. Here’s the thing: it is common for us human beings to stick to doing what is easy and comfortable for us. Thus, many shy people, because they don’t feel comfortable around other people, will tend to isolate themselves.

They will spend many hours alone, watching TV, playing computer games and secretly fantasizing about a better social life. This only works against them because it reinforces their shyness and makes the people skills they may have atrophy.

Learning how to overcome shyness starts with doing the opposite: gradually getting more out of the house, exposing yourself more to social situations and interacting more with people. Since this may feel uncomfortable at first, it’s a form of emotional stretching.

Stretching yourself and interacting more with people works great because it gets you used to social situations and the social anxiety starts to drop. Also, your people skills steadily improve and that’s how to gain confidence.

Get Some Accurate Feedback

Working with shy people or people with an inferiority complex, I often notice that they have a hugely distorted image of themselves and how they come across to others. They usually think they are weird and that other people realize this in the very first seconds of talking with them.

If you are somewhat shy, getting some accurate feedback about your social persona from other people will be highly valuable for you in overcoming shyness. It will help you get your feet on the ground by realizing you’re an OK person.

What you basically do is ask a number of people who know you and trust about the way they see you. You can ask them a few questions about the qualities and the flaws they see in you, about the first impression you create and so on.

You can ask them all of this in a relaxed conversation, or you can request them to give you feedback using an anonymous feedback form. Feel free to test various methods.

Cut Down Mind-Reading

Mind-reading is the process of trying to figure out what a person thinks or how they feel by reading subtle cues in their behavior, words, voice tone or body language.

However, since these signals are hard to interpret accurately and shy people often exaggerate in their interpretations, this process is a lot like trying to read other peoples’ minds and it provides grossly inaccurate results.

If you want to overcome shyness, you’ve got to realize that you can’t read other peoples’ minds and that whatever interpretations you’re making of each small gesture are probably wrong. As you do so, you can move on to consciously reducing your mind-reading and thus overcoming your shyness.

Learn To Let Go Of Perfectionism

The final part of the answer to the question “How to overcome shyness?” has to do with changing your self-imposed standards.

Make sure to check out my free conversation confidence guide for more details on solving this issues, as well as as how to transform into an authentic and  confident person in social settings. Get it here.

Shy people tend to be insanely perfectionist. They ask of themselves to come across as ideal and they have a low tolerance for people not liking them or not approving of them. If you want to enjoy social interactions more, abandoning such absurd standards is a must.

Now, notice that I didn’t say “let go of perfectionism”, I said “learn to let go”. This is because it’s a process. It will call for identifying your perfectionist social expectations as they manifest in your habitual thinking, then addressing them by changing your thinking in a conscious manner.

By the way, I have a free social confidence guide for you that will teach you how to do this and overcome shyness.

A Systemic Approach

Overall, overcoming shyness effectively takes not only the right pieces of advice and techniques, but also applying them in a systemic style. This implies:

  • Setting gradual personal development goals for yourself;
  • Working on them daily and rewarding yourself;
  • Persisting and getting back on track if you quit;
  • Mixing the internal cognitive change with the external behavioral change.

As you do so, you will see gradual progress and the occasional leaps forward. You will rewrite your map of the world and your social habits. As a result, you will experience more social freedom and a richer social life. That’s how to overcome shyness the successful way.

Image courtesy of fanfan2145