Fear of Blushing
Do you have a fear of blushing (also known as erythrophobia)? If so, you know there is nothing worse than the feeling that you can’t stop blushing.
While the fear of blushing can be considered a phobia all by itself, in some cases it can be part of a larger problem with social anxiety.
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The term erythrophobia is based on Greek terminology meaning literally “fear of redness.” In terms of diagnosis, a severe and irrational fear of blushing would be diagnosed as a specific phobia.
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What is blushing in general and how does it happen?
Blushing is an involuntary reaction that is triggered by your parasympathetic nervous system. When something happens that causes you to blush, your body releases adrenaline that causes the blood vessels in your face to widen. In this way, blushing is a side effect of this series of events.
Blushing can also result from drinking alcohol or certain medications, although it’s more typically called “flushing” in those instances.
While there is some speculation that blushing evolved as a social mechanism to elicit trust and compassion when you feel unable to control your blushing it can leave you feeling powerless.
Below are some of the common signs and symptoms of erythrophobia:
- severe anxiety about the thought of blushing
- being unable to control your fear of blushing
- being triggered by situations where blushing might occur like public speaking
- feeling powerless to control your fear even though you know it is irrational
- fear that is persistent and excessive
- negative thoughts about what it means when you blush
- feeling as though you can’t control blushing once it starts
- feeling anxious about upcoming events when you might blush
- avoiding situations where you fear blushing
- being fixated on your blushing and how other people perceive it
- worrying about the social cost of blushing
If you struggle with erythrophobia, you might wonder about the underlying cause. While some people might have had a traumatic blushing experience, others can’t remember any specific event. Below are some possible causes of erythrophobia.
- traumatic experiences involving blushing (e.g., being made fun of for blushing during a speech in public school)
- hearing about or witnessing someone else having a traumatic experience
- having a physical or mental health condition that increases the risk of blushing (e.g., idiopathic craniofacial erythema, a condition that causes strong blushing with no trigger, or social anxiety disorder)
- high levels of self-focused attention that make you more aware of when you blush
- having an overactive sympathetic nervous system
- a genetic predisposition to blushing
If you have erythrophobia, you know the negative impacts it can have on your life. Below are just some of the things you might have experienced:
- lower overall quality of life
- being fearful to go places where you might be the center of attention
- being afraid to leave the house at all
- fear of job interviews, making it harder to get a job
- fear of public speaking, which could interfere with work competency
- not feeling comfortable when in the company of other people
Many of these outcomes are similar to what is experienced by people who live with social anxiety.
Are you wondering whether you should see a professional about your fear of blushing?
If your fear is constant and interferes with your daily life, then it’s probably the right choice.
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In order to be diagnosed with a specific phobia, a mental health professional would compare your symptoms against a standard set of criteria.
Your fear must be excessive, persistent, and irrational.
It must cause you anxiety or panic whenever you are faced with your fear or cause you to avoid situations because of your fear.
Your quality of life must also be greatly reduced and have gone on like this for at least 6 months.
Finally, a professional would rule out other diagnoses that might fit you better, such as social anxiety disorder or a medical condition. In the case of social anxiety disorder, your fear would be more focused on the fact that blushing draws attention to you, rather than a fear of blushing itself.
Finally, if you have a fear of blushing, you’d probably like to know what treatments are available. Below are some options that may be offered to you.
talk therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy/mindfulness training
exposure therapy (gradually facing what you fear until the fear is reduced, in real life, in your imagination, or in virtual reality)
anti-anxiety medication to manage your anxiety about blushing or physical signs of anxiety
surgery (only in severe cases, endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy can be conducted to cut the sympathetic nerves that control the blushing response)
attention training (to focus outward instead of inward)
Coping On Your Own
If you don’t want to see a doctor, there are still some things you can do on your own:
try a hypnotherapy MP3 download to reduce your fear of blushing
try our Phobia Free Workbook for Performance Anxiety if your fear of blushing is mainly related to a specific situation
try paradoxical intention (first used by psychiatrist Viktor Frankl) in which you focus hard on trying to blush as much as you can (and as a result, blush less)
accept your blushing (blushing can embarrassment or shame but also modesty and the desire to get along with others)
Do you have a problem with blushing? Let us know in the comments.
Related Posts About Blushing
- How to Stop Blushing
- What Is Social Anxiety? 10 Things to Know
- What Are the 4 Types of Social Anxiety?