Erythrophobia is a fear of blushing, more precisely of the blushing of the skin of the face. It is a mental disorder, but not a mental illness in the classic sense, even if the unwanted and vegetatively controlled blushing of the skin is experienced as unpleasant and can also be very stressful.
What is erythrophobia?
According to phonejust.com, the term erythrophobia is a word from the Greek language composed of two syllables. “Erythros” means “red” and “Phobos” means “fear”, so erythrophobia is a fear of blushing, which can occur acutely or chronically. Some people suffer from this anxiety disorder only in certain phases of their life, others suffer from fear of reddening throughout their entire life if treatment is not given in good time.
Very often those affected remain silent for a long time about their tendency to blush quickly and do not even confide in the doctor. Because blushing is still not generally accepted in society. The public often equates a person’s blushing with shame, confusion, or a lie. In the corresponding situations, the person concerned can be so internally blocked that he is no longer able to speak even one word. Unfortunately, this reinforces the fears and creates a kind of vicious cycle of blushing, inner tension and embarrassment.
Most people affected by embarrassing blushing do everything they can to counter it by simply imagining not to blush. However, this cannot be successful, because impulsive facial flushing, also known as flush, is a strictly vegetative reaction that, like the heartbeat, cannot be arbitrarily influenced. Erythrophobia must not be confused with classic phobias such as fear of spiders or fear of heights. Because these are usually better to treat.
The cause of psychological erythrophobia is a so-called fear cycle. A situation that is perceived as uncomfortable or negative thoughts lead to self-awareness of blushing. Then thoughts of danger and threat arise, even if no threat is objectively recognizable. This is followed by psychological fear with avoidance and a tendency to withdraw. If the fear cycle persists longer, then physical changes also occur in the neurons, which in turn maintain the fear cycle. In this chronic phase, therapy is particularly difficult.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
Although symptoms, complaints and signs of erythrophobia are predominantly psychological in nature, physical causes must nonetheless be ruled out. The reddening of the skin could also hide rosacea, couperose or a tendency to sweat excessively.
The blushing is often perceived by those affected as an impulse rising from the stomach, which seems uncontrollable and becomes independent in its feeling. If you then fight against it internally, the result is an even more violent and faster blushing. Often, even the little things of everyday life are enough to lose self-confidence that you have worked hard to gain.
Erythrophobia can be accompanied by intense internal tension and restlessness, and fluctuations in blood pressure often occur because the dysregulation of the hormonal system causes the body to switch to the so-called escape and attack mode with an increased release of stress hormones from the adrenal cortex. In geographical terms, blushing can only occur on the ears, for example, or in the form of so-called hectic spots.
In addition to the face, the décolleté, neck area or the nape of the neck are also often affected. Rapid blushing is also known as blushing, slow blushing is also known as flushing and permanent reddening is also known as a permanent form of progression. In psychological practice, this type of differential diagnosis can be important for monitoring the progression.
It’s not true that dark-skinned people don’t blush, they blush just like light-skinned people, but it’s just not that obvious. If those affected suffer from a social phobia at the same time, i.e. a fear of meeting or contact with people, an early diagnosis is particularly important in order to identify tendencies towards withdrawal or even suicidal behavior in good time.
The diagnosis should be made by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or neurologist after a thorough physical examination and ruling out organic causes. In the international classification of the ICD registry, erythrophobia is still not listed as an independent clinical picture.
Without treatment, it is possible that erythrophobia could worsen. Other anxiety disorders such as social phobia or agoraphobia may develop. A common complication associated with erythrophobia is avoiding situations where the person believes they are blushing or where the blushing may be particularly embarrassing. Social impoverishment and withdrawal are common consequences that can vary in severity.
Other mental disorders can also develop if the erythrophobia is not treated. Isolation, shame and feelings of inferiority can, for example, contribute to the development of depression or encourage relapse. Compulsions develop in some people with erythrophobia.
These often serve (initially) to reduce anxiety. Control compulsions are particularly common: the person concerned may often check his face in reflective surfaces or look for other indications of possible blushing. The constant monitoring may extend to other areas.
This behavior can be misinterpreted as vanity by outsiders. In addition, those affected may appear dismissive or disinterested by looking at their reflection in the mirror. Conflicts with friends or family are also possible. Many people affected also suffer from the consequences of erythrophobia in the workplace – for example, if they do not trust themselves to speak to others as a superior or if they do not actively participate in team discussions. This can lead to occupational restrictions.
When should you go to the doctor?
As a rule, a doctor does not always have to be consulted with erythrophobia. The disease can be treated through various exercises or therapies. However, if those affected suffer from severe restrictions in everyday life due to erythrophobia, a visit to a doctor should be made.
This is especially the case when the disease occurs as a result of traumatic experiences. A visit to the doctor is necessary if the patient suffers from blushing or from a profuse sweating in many situations. Usually, these symptoms cannot be anticipated or prevented, meaning that the person cannot control the blushing themselves. Internal restlessness or constant tension can also lead to erythrophobia and should be examined. Fluctuations in blood pressure can lead to real health problems and must also be examined.
The first diagnosis of the disease can be made by a psychologist or a therapist. Treatment is usually carried out by these doctors as well. In many cases, this can limit erythrophobia. However, a completely positive course of the disease cannot always be predicted.
Treatment & Therapy
The decisive factor for the success of erythrophobia therapy is the patient’s unconditional willingness to engage in an often lengthy treatment with setbacks. In addition, therapy must be given as early as possible, before physiological structures in the brain have changed. In psychotherapy, there is no known valid method for safely overcoming erythrophobia.
Disclosive counseling therapy, the participation of those affected in self-help groups, as well as psychodynamic and behavioral therapies have already helped many sufferers to deal with the symptoms in a tolerable manner. In the case of resistance to therapy, a special type of operation, the endoscopic transthoracic sympathectomy, if strictly indicated, can also be helpful. However, it is only suitable for patients who are suicidal and have completely isolated themselves from the outside world.
Outlook & forecast
In most cases, erythrophobia can be cured relatively well. There are no particular complications, and early diagnosis and treatment always have a positive effect on the further course of the disease. In some cases it can also lead to self-healing, although this usually occurs only rarely.
If the erythrophobia is not treated, the affected person will suffer from severe blushing and continuing to sweat excessively. Fluctuations in blood pressure can also occur in this disease and have a negative effect on the quality of life of the person affected. If the erythrophobia occurs over a longer period of time, the disease can also lead to social complaints, whereby difficulties can arise especially in children and adolescents.
Since the treatment of erythrophobia is usually carried out as part of a psychotherapy, the further course and the success of the treatment depends heavily on the severity of the disease and on the patient’s own attitude. Usually, however, the disease is cured. The life expectancy of the patient is not negatively affected by the disease.
Often times, erythrophobia is triggered by a trigger in childhood. If parents notice increased involuntary blushing in their child, they shouldn’t be afraid to seek advice from a psychiatrist. Because early therapy can prevent the development of an anxiety cycle and thus the occurrence of erythrophobia in adulthood.
After-care options are available to those affected with erythrophobia only to a very limited extent. The patient is primarily dependent on the direct and medical treatment of this disease in order to avoid further complications. Since this cannot lead to an independent healing, an early diagnosis of this disease is very important.
The treatment itself usually takes place with the help of medication and therapy with a psychologist. The person affected should ensure that they take the medication regularly, taking into account interactions or side effects. In the case of children, parents in particular should check that they are taking the medication correctly. Even after successful treatment of erythrophobia, most of those affected are dependent on continuing to take the drug.
Since erythrophobia is a psychological upset, loving and intensive support for the patient also has a positive effect on the course of the disease. The patients should be integrated into other people’s lives, as they often isolate themselves from other people. Contact with other sufferers of erythrophobia can also be useful, as this can lead to an exchange of information that can make everyday life easier.
You can do that yourself
There are no treatments available that will 100% prevent flushing. However, people can learn how to blush less frequently. There is also an option to remove the fear of blushing. First of all, those affected should stop viewing blushing as a disaster or a disgrace. It is also advisable to accept your mistakes and weaknesses.
Affected people should always allow themselves to blush. In particular, the thought of just not blushing triggers exactly the opposite. Panic develops, which leads to blushing. Those affected should not forbid or hide this property. It is better to get used to the blushing and respond positively to it. It makes sense to tell yourself that it’s okay. That’ll pass quickly. Those affected should repeat these words whenever they notice blushing.
In addition, it is beneficial to increase one’s self-esteem. Those who take this to heart and don’t judge themselves will be less afraid of blushing. It also teaches those affected to feel less embarrassed about blushing. This in turn has the effect of generally blushing less. The exercises take some time to complete, but success is worthwhile.