Understanding the Fear of Blushing

Emotions and Blushing

Blushing is often accompanied by different, sometimes conflicting, emotions. One emotion in particular is almost universally reported in combination with blushing a feeling of self-consciousness. Although the cause of extreme blushing is not always associated with an emotional response, it does often occur among people who suffer from social phobia. People experience anxiety in social situations in a variety of ways including palpitations, tremors, and sweating, in addition to blushing. In some cases, anxiety is compounded by the fear of showing physical symptoms, in turn making the occurrence of these reactions a source of fear. Erythrophobia, or the fear of blushing, is now considered a subtype of social phobia. Research conducted in the past 15 years on blushing and social anxiety suggest people with social phobias can sometimes tend to focus attention excessively on themselves during social situations. As a result, feelings of anxiety and negative self-perceptions can take hold. Too much social attention can be especially difficult for people with a fear of blushing. The experience of blushing can in turn intensify self-consciousness creating a vicious cycle.

Task Concentration Training

Although blushing is largely beyond voluntary control and most people find it impossible to stop blushing, one treatment that has seen some success is what is referred to as task concentration training (TCT). TCT teaches people with a fear of blushing to focus attention on the task at hand rather than the potential onset of blushing. The task may be anxiety inducing situations such as public speaking or relatively benign tasks such as pumping gas. During TCT, people are encouraged to focus inward on feelings and thoughts related to the action at hand, rather than on the more subjective aspects of the personal interaction. TCT consists of three steps:

•  understanding the process and mechanisms of focusing attention

•  focusing attention on non-threatening situations, and

•  learning how to focus attention during threatening situations.

With a re-evaluation of what is going on around them, some people with a fear of blushing can effectively lessen the chance blushing will actually occur.


Those who are highly fearful of blushing also tend to overestimate the intensity of their blush when compared to individuals who blush, but do not fear blushing. In 2006, Behaviour Research and Therapy reported that a team in the School of Psychology of Murdoch University found embarrassment and self-reported intensity of blushing were greater among those who fear blushing than those that do not. So, even if a social blusher feels as red as a tomato, in many instances others may not perceive the degree of redness the same way. Those with more extreme anxiety about their blushing sometimes regard blushing as the cause of their social difficulties rather than as a symptom. As we all know, on any given day we are often the focus of others' attention. Those who blush easily and live with the fear of blushing, experience the emotional aspects of these encounters in a heightened way. Personal interpretation of the blush is in the eye of the beholder; a negative self image can exacerbate both the fear and the severity of the blush.

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