Erythrophobia is a specific phobia that causes the excessive, irrational fear of blushing. People with erythrophobia experience severe anxiety and other psychological symptoms over the act or thought of blushing.

Overcoming erythrophobia is possible with psychological treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy.

In this article, we will explore the symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment of erythrophobia, as well as some resources for where to get help.

When you have erythrophobia, the fear of blushing is uncontrollable and automatic, as it is with all phobias. Someone with erythrophobia will experience severe anxiety over the act of blushing, or even at the thought of blushing. When this anxiety occurs, it can also lead to redness and blushing in the face and chest, which can make the anxiety worse.

The symptoms of anxiety associated with erythrophobia may include:

  • increased agitation and restlessness
  • a constant feeling of worry or anxiety
  • trouble concentrating
  • difficulty sleeping at night

These anxiety symptoms are often present in everyday life, even if the person is not actively blushing. In situations that can trigger actual blushing, such as public speaking, that anxiety may manifest as a panic attack.

The symptoms of a panic attack may include:

  • fast heart rate
  • trouble breathing
  • chest pain
  • sweating
  • shaking
  • dizziness
  • nausea

A 2019 study showed that people with specific phobias experience a lower quality of life than people without phobias. The constant presence of erythrophobia symptoms can make it difficult to live a normal life.

People with erythrophobia may even avoid leaving the house to safeguard against being in situations that may cause them to blush.

Erythrophobia can develop from either a traumatic experience or a non-traumatic association. A phobia that develops from a traumatic event is an experiential phobia. A phobia that develops in the absence of a personally traumatic event is a non-experiential phobia.

Experiential

Experiential erythrophobia may develop when a person experiences a traumatizing social event that involves or causes blushing. This can lead to the avoidance of blushing or situations that may cause blushing, in order to avoid having to relive that trauma.

In some cases, that trauma can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which also causes persistent anxiety and mental stress.

Non-experiential

Non-experiential erythrophobia may develop from a handful of different causes that have nothing to do with a traumatic personal event.

For some people, having a relative with erythrophobia can lead to an increased risk of developing erythrophobia. For other people, simply hearing about another traumatic event related to blushing can cause a phobia of blushing to develop.

No matter how erythrophobia develops, the person does not have any control over their fear. They realize that the fear is irrational, but they cannot control their reaction to it. When you have erythrophobia, the fear of blushing is excessive, persistent, and out of your control.

There are some underlying conditions, such as nutritional deficiencies or undiagnosed mental illnesses, that can cause persistent anxiety. When you receive a diagnosis for erythrophobia, your doctor may want to rule out these possible causes first.

If there are no underlying medical conditions causing your phobia, your doctor can use certain criteria to make an official diagnosis.

To be diagnosed with a phobia, your doctor will use criteria set by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. A healthcare provider can confirm the diagnosis of a phobia if:

  1. The fear is excessive, unreasonable, and persistent.
  2. The fear, and exposure to the fear, causes immediate symptoms of anxiety or panic.
  3. The fear is disproportionate to the threat, and the person is aware of this.
  4. The fear causes the person to avoid situations that may cause them to experience or encounter the fear.
  5. The quality of life of the person with the phobia is negatively impacted.
  6. The fear is constant for at least 6 months or more.
  7. The fear is not caused by another underlying mental illness.

If you meet a certain number of these criteria regarding blushing, your doctor will diagnose you with erythrophobia and can refer you for treatment.

There are several effective treatment options for erythrophobia, including cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and other experimental therapies. They include:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is an incredibly effective, well-researched treatment approach for a variety of mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, and phobias. With CBT, the focus is on rewiring the negative thought patterns into more healthy thought patterns, which in turn can promote healthier behavior patterns.

One 2017 study found that both in person and online CBT sessions were beneficial in treating psychiatric disorders such as phobias. If you have erythrophobia, CBT is an effective therapy option for helping to improve your daily thought patterns.

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that is commonly used to treat anxiety-based disorders. It involves exposure to the fear in a safe environment in order to rewire the fear response.

Research suggests that exposure therapy is the most effective treatment for specific phobias, even compared to more traditional therapy options. For people with erythrophobia, frequent, safe exposure to blushing can greatly reduce the symptoms of fear.

Experimental therapies

Some experimental therapies have been developed for the treatment of phobias and other anxiety disorders. For example, visual stimulation from virtual reality therapy can mimic exposure therapy in the clinical setting.

Auricular chromotherapy is a novel treatment for phobias that involves visualizing the trauma (“scene of suffering”) while associating it with sensitive points on the earlobe. However, both treatments need more research to determine their effectiveness for treating erythrophobia.

Medication

In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help reduce the day-to-day symptoms of anxiety caused by erythrophobia. These may include anti-anxiety medications for short-term use and antidepressants for long-term use.

Most therapists prefer not to prescribe short-term anxiety medications however, due to the increased risk of long-term dependence.

Combination therapy

It is important to know that there is no single treatment method that works for everyone. No matter what you decide to try, finding the right treatment approach, or combination of approaches, can take time and patience.

The first step is always to reach out for help.

If you’re experiencing a constant, irrational fear of blushing, it is time to visit your doctor or therapist. If you’re not sure of where to start looking for help, here are some resources that can help you find a mental health professional near you:

If you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline anytime at 800-273-TALK (8255).

When you have erythrophobia, the fear of blushing can negatively impact your daily quality of life. It is important to seek a diagnosis for your erythrophobia so that you can begin to receive treatment.

Meeting with a licensed therapist or psychologist to discuss your treatment options can help you find the best approach for your situation. With professional help, you can treat and overcome your erythrophobia.