What is Erythrophobia?

Erythrophobia (also spelled "Ereuthrophobia” or “Erytophobia”) describes a pathological fear of blushing in public. (This term can also be used to denote a fear of the color red.)

Blushing is a natural phenomenon, especially in Caucasians, when blood rushes to the face and manifests as redness because of a sympathetic response. The fear of blushing can escalate and lead to the anxiety of blushing, creating a self-perpetuating issue. In this case, the psychosomatic response is itself the physiological expression of anxiety.

Individuals who suffer from this phobia are generally not afraid of blushing, but are afraid of the thoughts, feelings, and emotions associated with it. Feelings of embarrassment and the loss of control associated with blushing form the basis of Erythrophobia.

In spite of the close association with social fears, Erythrophobia is considered a specific phobia and could also be related to Chromophobia.

The root word 'erythro' is Greek meaning 'red' and the word 'phobia' comes from the Greek word ‘phóbos’ meaning 'fear.'

A little more information about this condition is worthwhile, since it is so closely related to a number of social phobias. The following description of the social implications of this fear is excerpted from the website Verywell.com:

“The fear of blushing is a form of specific social phobia. Many people with Erythrophobia also suffer from other social phobias, although Erythrophobia occasionally occurs alone. The fear generally is not of the blushing reaction itself, but rather of the attention that it might draw from others.

If we are anxious or embarrassed, the last thing we want is further attention. The blushing is usually accompanied by a variety of negative thoughts that all focus on how we might be perceived. This, in turn, heightens the level of blushing, which further fuels the negative thoughts and then causes us to feel even more anxious or embarrassed.”

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Symptoms of Erythrophobia

  • Extreme Anxiety, Dread

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dry Mouth
  • Confusion / Inability to Articulate Clearly
  • Lack of Focus
  • Irritability
  • Shaking
  • Feelings of Powerlessness
  • Obsession with the Subject of the Phobia
  • Fear or Feelings of Losing Control
  • Avoidance Behavior
  • Headaches

Learn more about phobia symptoms ›

Causes of Erythrophobia

Erythrophobia is a specific (or “isolated”) phobia, centered on non-social key factors. Isolated phobias tend to have some previous trauma (often in childhood and often physically injurious) as a root cause; a fear of bees may stem from an injury in childhood, for instance.

Upbringing can also play a role, such as parental warnings about a direct threat (such as “snakes can bite and kill you”) which is especially notable in cases where a threat is more imminent. (An allergy to bees or peanut butter, for instance, would naturally reinforce a real medical concern.)

It is thought that genetics and hereditary factors may play a role in specific phobias, especially those related to a danger of injury. (A primal “fight or flight” reflex may be more easily triggered in those with a genetic predisposition, for instance.)

By contrast, social phobias (like a fear of body odor or touch) are less well-understood, are driven by social anxiety, and are broadly labeled as “social anxiety disorder”.

In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and / or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation, seeing something in the news, on TV, or in the movies.

Erythrophobia, like most phobias, stems from a subconscious overprotection mechanism, and as with many phobias can also be rooted in an unresolved emotional conflict.

While most phobias need not have a past traumatic cause, in this case the fear almost always develops from personal experience. When the individual feels their face blush from embarrassment, the blush response itself becomes an additional source of fear.

This fear is thus most often a symptom of social anxiety. A person may believe themselves to be living with the fear of blushing when the source of their fears may be something completely different.

Learn more about the causes of phobias ›

Treatments for Erythrophobia

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

  • Habit Strategies To Relax
  • Cognitive Therapy (CT)
  • In Vivo Exposure
  • Response Prevention
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Energy Psychology
  • Medication
  • Meditation

Learn more about phobia treatments ›

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