What is Blushing?
Blushing is an emotional, behavioural and involuntary physical condition made worse by many factors and often associated with social anxiety. Though it can commonly occur with this anxiety disorder, blushing can even happen when a person is alone and this is important to note. Blushing happens by reflex when the sympathetic nervous system over-reacts to certain stimuli. Small capillaries in the face, that have muscles in their walls are dilated by the release of adrenaline as in the fight or flight response. The adrenaline boost causes a sudden increase in arterial blood flow; the capillaries having expanded become filled with more blood and we see the face turn red. That said, it appears that adrenaline does not always have a part to play in why the face can redden.
A fear of blushing, also of the colour red is commonly known as erythrophobia but also ereuthophobia. Excessive blushing in any setting where there are people is also medically known as idiopathic craniofacial erythema.This doesn’t concern the common occasional blush that everyone can experience but a severe and constant fear or dread of blushing thus causing a phobic state. If we look at all the different triggers that can cause blushing we can begin to understand what we can do about it.
Common Causes of Blushing or Flushing of the Face
- Emotions – fear, anger, embarrassment, surprise, anxiety, shame, and love are common examples
- Being judged by others
- Hot caffeinated drinks
- General heat
- Spicy foods
- Rosacea – a medical skin condition with reddening of the skin which can cause a phobia of blushing.
- Situations – social gatherings, shame after lying and being found out, performing in front of people, kissing someone, meeting someone new, feeling silly in front of someone, an awkward incident or even praise.
These are just a few examples but the factors we are concerned with when someone has a blushing phobia are fear, anxiety, embarrassment and performance. This is because these factors appear to move a common distaste of blushing up a notch to become a phobic condition. We become to dread blushing and sometimes even thinking we may blush is enough to make us blush (anticipatory anxiety). As everyone blushes from time to time it is important that we understand why blushing matters so much to us in particular. Blushing is nothing to be ashamed of; in fact many see it as nature’s way of showing people our true, genuine emotions. Now I hear you say that you don’t want people to see how you truly feel, but does your blushing have acceptable causes that you can rationally explain? Are you blushing in so many situations that it feels out of control? A blushing phobia may even cause you to have repeated panic attacks or panic disorder.
What Can You do to Stop Your Blushing Phobia?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Predominantly, a blushing phobia exists because we care too much about how we appear to other people. If we didn't care about how people view us, or indeed how we view ourselves then blushing wouldn't become so much of a problem. We may simply become hypersensitive to the fact that we blush and the heightened anxiety triggers the fear response and then we blush even more. Are you very sensitive to the way people view you generally? Did your blushing start after being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder? If it did, then it makes sense to address the root problem. Blushing is a symptom of social phobia so the treatment would be the same as for this condition. CBT is useful in changing the way you think and behave with regard to your blushing or social anxiety.
Hypnotherapy and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)
These are common therapies for phobias generally. You may have been avoiding situations or places where you feel you may blush for some time. Even if you are a person that is trying (with difficulty) to live with your blushing phobia, hypnotherapy and NLP may help. You have formed bad habits both by the way you perceive your blushing and the way you react to it. NLP/Hypnotherapy techniques can change your negative responses into more positive ones. You learned how to respond to your blushing and so you can learn a new response by way of re-programming your thoughts. Hypnotherapy can also teach you how to relax in your worst case scenario situations.
Anti anxiety medications can help but they are not a cure all. Addressing the problem adequately with patience is a much more positive way forward. If the skin condition rosacea has caused you to become phobic about blushing and redness in your face then of course there are some medications that may help this condition.
Your anxiety levels are heightened and need addressing generally so you need to find ways to relax. You may suffer panic disorder at the same time as the blushing phobia and fear may be a huge issue for you. There are many free downloadable mp3s on the internet to offer you a guided relaxation, meditation, visualization or a self hypnosis option when addressing phobias, fears and negative mind chatter. Just put these in a search and I am sure you will find there are quite a few that are completely free and many more for a small charge. Buying a therapeutic audio cd may be the best way forward for those who can not afford to pay a therapist.
Read as much as you can on how to boost your confidence levels and address any self esteem issues. Look into buying a Hatha Yoga DVD for at least relieving your phobia and helping with your anxiety levels. This takes lots of practice but it may help.
Without a doubt, you should try to avoid the things already mentioned like alcohol and hot caffeinated drinks. If you tend to blush easily because of your phobia it makes sense to lessen the chances of it happening in other ways. If you feel brave enough it may also help to find out if there is a social anxiety or self esteem/assertiveness group in your locality where you will feel more readily accepted and less likely to be judged. Attending such a group would build your confidence levels and give you great practice at being around people whilst addressing your blushing phobia.
Rule out Rosacea as a Cause
It is worth noting that reddening and flushing of the face may be the only symptom with the medical condition rosacea although usually accompanied by burning or itching. Long term use of steroids may cause this problem. According to The National Rosacea Society survey, emotional stress is the second biggest rosacea trigger.
meloncauli (author) from UK on June 21, 2012:
Thanks Linda. I guess you could be right there because I have cared less as I have got older too. I think it's really interesting that we can blush when alone. That tells me how blushing is universal and it can be our reaction to it that makes it a problem.
Linda Chechar from Arizona on June 20, 2012:
Wow, that's a new one to me also. I'm an occasional blusher, but the older I get, the less I seem to blush. Guess as we age, we care less about making mistakes in front of others or what other people think. It is one of the pleasant by-products of the aging process.
Engaging Hub about a serious disorder. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.
meloncauli (author) from UK on June 14, 2012:
Thanks Simone, I am pleased you found it interesting. I expect most of us don't like that blushing reveals things about us but as long as it's not a major problem then that's good.
You're welcome schoolgirlforreal. If it isn't a major problem then we should be trying to live with it I guess. It is when it affects our daily lives that we need to address it. I expect some people who have a tendency to blush a lot but have no big problem with it, use certain blends of make up as disguise! In my opinion though, if we feel we have got to disguise our tendency to blush then there starts the roots to a problem that could later become a phobia.
schoolgirlforreal on June 13, 2012:
What if you just blush a lot and want to blush less? lol. thanks for the hub!
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on June 13, 2012:
I absolutely HATE blushing, but don't have any particular phobia of it. I just hate that it reveals when I'm embarrassed or emotional about something. Ugh!
Still, I really enjoyed reading about the different ways that people deal with the phobia. So interesting! Thanks for the fascinating read.
meloncauli (author) from UK on June 13, 2012:
Thank you for your kind comments gsidley. I agree that the problem lies predominantly with how a person believes they appear to others.
Many thanks Om Paramapoonya. I always warm to someone who blushes and 'feel for them' when it's apparent that they are embarrassed by it.
Om Paramapoonya on June 12, 2012:
How interesting! I had never heard of this phobia before. In high school, I had a friend who blushed A LOT and thought that was kind of cute. I can see how excessive blushing could be something that is more embarrassing than cute for adults, though. Great hub!
Dr. Gary L. Sidley from Lancashire, England on June 12, 2012:
Another interesting read, meloncauli.
I think blushing becomes a major problem when
a person interprets it in a very negative way (e.g. by believing the redness is much more obvious than it actually is or that others will evaluate them negatively for blushing (e.g. as a pathetic person).
I'm impressed by your output in the number of quality hubs you're delivering, Meloncauli - you're putting me to shame!!
meloncauli (author) from UK on June 12, 2012:
Thanks for your comment, much appreciated.
Kristi Sharp from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on June 12, 2012:
meloncauli, this is informative and useful. The use of relaxation meditation and yoga is a great idea for self soothing to help break through anxious moments. -K
meloncauli (author) from UK on June 12, 2012:
Thanks Leah. I think the sufferer might have a good idea if the phobia is born from common blushing but, as you say, it pays to be sure.
Thanks spartucusjones. Glad you found it interesting.
CJ Baker from Parts Unknown on June 12, 2012:
Very interesting hub! I never associated fear of blushing as a phobia before. I just learned something new, and learning stuff is cool!
Leah Lefler from Western New York on June 12, 2012:
This is a very helpful article, meloncauli. I can see how blushing could become a problem, as emotions become physically evident. The advice about ruling out rosacea is great, too - it is important to make sure an underlying medical cause isn't behind the red cheeks!