Scopophobia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Your activation level usually changes when you become aware that someone is watching you. But what happens if this actually paralyzes you with fear? Read on to find out.
Scopophobia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Last update: 04 December, 2021

Scopophobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by a pathological fear of being looked at or being seen by others. Similarly, it’s also associated with an irrational fear of attracting the attention of others. It’s considered to be a specific phobia. In other words, it can manifest itself on its own, without other psychopathological disorders. However, it often occurs alongside other phobias such as stage fright or fear of blushing.

Scopophobia is also one of the most common symptoms of social phobia. For this reason, it’s often included within the classification of social anxiety disorders.

Symptoms of scopophobia

People suffering from scopophobia try to avoid situations in which they may be looked at by others. This might involve large groups of people, such as when the sufferer has to perform, give a talk, or make a presentation. However, a single stranger passing by on the street can also provoke symptoms in them.

In addition to the desire for avoidance, people with scopophobia usually manifest a set of symptoms when faced with the situation they dread. Here are some of the most common:

  • Excessive sweating.
  • Sickness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Tachycardia.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Tremors.
  • Hyperventilation.
  • Blushing.
  • Difficulty maintaining coherent speech.
  • Mental scattering.
  • Feelings of loss of control or panic.

Faced with this overwhelming symptomatology, many subjects with scopophobia end up limiting their social encounters. In fact, depending on the severity of the disorder, they may stop interacting altogether with most people. This might even include their friends and family.

Man who feels judged

Main causes of scopophobia

Scopophobia can manifest itself for a multitude of reasons. One of the most common is that the person has been teased at some point in their lives. Consequently, this situation has created a traumatic experience that’s become generalized to other social areas.

However, that’s not the only explanation for this phobia. For example, extremely shy people may suffer from it. Also, people suffering from a visible disease, injury, or deformity might develop it more easily. That’s because they tend to attract more attention from others.

Scopophobia also occurs in people suffering from some type of psychopathological disorder. For example,  delusional disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, or a high level of hypervigilance.

Treatments currently available

Currently, there are several ways to address phobias. The most common treatments involve psychological therapy and psychotropic drugs.

Psychotherapy

The classic approach to treating a phobia such as scopophobia is cognitive-behavioral therapy. Within this approach, therapists may use different methods:

  • Systematic desensitization. This way of facing phobias allows sufferers a gradual exposure to the feared situation. To facilitate performance, therapists employ strategies such as cognitive restructuring and effective relaxation techniques.
  • Exposure. This technique consists of the patient being directly exposed to the phobic stimulus for a sufficient time until their anxiety subsides. At first, they may find it more difficult to cope with, but it’s extremely helpful in certain situations. In fact, in some individuals, it can be even more effective than systematic desensitization.
  • Social skills training. Whichever way the phobia is treated, training in social skills training is indispensable for this phobia. Thanks to this, patients learn communication strategies that help them relate more appropriately to other people.

Other psychotherapies to treat scopophobia

Cognitive-behavioral therapy has helped millions of patients around the world. However, a significant percentage of people don’t respond adequately to this approach. In these cases, there are other therapies that can be extremely effective:

  • Brief strategic therapy. This type of intervention is excellent for people who don’t respond to classical treatments. As with exposure therapy, they must be exposed to the phobic stimulus. However, in this case, they do so following a strategy based on a non-ordinary logic. In many cases, resistance to change in the patient is unraveled.
  • Psychoanalytic psychotherapy. If there’s one traditional method of dealing with psychological distress, it’s psychoanalysis. This approach is very different from other types of psychotherapy, but it’s no less effective for certain sufferers. In fact, it’s especially suitable for those who wish to delve into the origin of their emotional conflicts.
Woman doing therapy

Psychopharmaceuticals

It’s usually recommended that scopophobia be initially addressed through psychotherapy. However, pharmacology can sometimes help reduce the physical symptoms. Among the most prescribed drugs are the following:

It’s also common for psychotherapy to be combined with one of these drugs, especially in the initial stages of treatment. As the patient improves and has greater control of the situation, they can then ask their doctor what steps to follow to reduce or even eliminate their consumption of these psychotropic drugs.

Finally, if you think you’re suffering from any of the symptoms described in this article, you now know there are effective interventions available. Your first step should be to consult a mental health specialist for guidance so you can learn some effective coping strategies.

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