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 anxiety created by a fear of blushing can lead to the anxiety that leads to 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.
The root word “erythro” is Greek meaning “red”.
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.”
- extreme anxiety, dread
- shortness of breath
- rapid breathing
- heart palpitation
- excessive sweating
- dry mouth
- confusion / inability to articulate clearly
- lack of focus
- feelings of powerlessness
- obsession with the subject of the phobia
- fear or feelings of losing control
- avoidance behavior
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.
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 or seeing something on the news or on TV and 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.
In extreme cases, surgery is used to sever the sympathetic nerves responsible for blushing.
- Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
- Habit strategies to relax
- Cognitive therapy (CT)
- In vivo exposure
- Response prevention
- Group therapy
- Energy Psychology
The list of books below are hand picked by the staff at Massive Phobia. It's a mixture of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Habit Strategies, Trauma Healing, Mindfulness, Meditation, Buddhist Knowledge and Somatic Study. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.