What is Ophthalmophobia?

Ophthalmophobia, also known as scopophobia, is the pathological fear of being watched, looked at, or stared at, or of drawing attention to oneself. People with this condition are terrified of being the center of attention. A specific phobia, it may be related to agoraphobia, the fear of leaving home.

The name comes from the Greek word “opthalmo” meaning “eye” or “sight”.

Symptoms of Ophthalmophobia

Ophthalmophobics sometimes develop habits of voyeurism or a “counterphobic” exhibitionism. The phobic might also be afraid of blushing (erythrophobia) and is likely to avoid being in public.

  • extreme anxiety, dread
  • shortness of breath
  • rapid breathing
  • heart palpitation
  • excessive sweating
  • nausea
  • dry mouth
  • confusion / inability to articulate clearly
  • lack of focus
  • irritability
  • diarrhea
  • 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 Ophthalmophobia

It is common for patients of epilepsy or Tourette’s syndrome to suffer from the fear of being watched. Those with a physical deformity or disfigurement are naturally more likely to be stared at and could develop this phobia.

Other social disorders like stage fright, fear of public speaking, etc., can reinforce this phobia, as can autism and schizophrenia.

In general, individuals with low self-esteem or those having a poor body image are more likely to suffer from this fear.

Ophthalmophobia 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.

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

Learn more about the causes of phobias

Treatment for Ophthalmophobia

  • 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


Book Shelf

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.