When Being in Crowded Places Feels Scarier Than Ever

Fear of crowds is known as ochlophobia, a term that’s historically been more associated with a form of social anxiety, or “the perceived presence of either too many people or intrusions into one’s personal space,” as described by Chalsa Loo in The Psychological Study of Crowding. The way we fear crowds and public places today is related, but different.

Dr. Paula Panzer, psychiatrist and chief clinical and medical officer at the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services in New York City, says the fear of crowds is one facet of a larger sense of helplessness and lack of control felt by many of the patients she sees. “People are more vigilant and feel less in control of their safety,” she says. In a world many of us perceive as less safe (whether accurately or not), we want to know how to maintain some semblance of safety in everyday life, says Panzer.

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