Scopophobia is the irrational fear of being stared at. This mental disorder may be akin to other social disorders such as social phobia, the fear of public speaking, and even generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). However, this will likely vary from person to person. Being fearful that people are staring at you is not analogous to being paranoid. Paranoia is defined as delusions of persecution, as well as feelings of exaggerated self-importance.
Experiencing scopophobia may me more common than you think as one of the most common phobias that exists is the fear of public speaking. This fear is deeply grounded in being overly concerned that people are staring at them and judging them. This is a big part of what scopophobia is about also. People with an intense fear of being stared at will often endure intense amounts of anxiety and dread when in such a situation.
They may be incapable of thinking rationally when in the midst of a panic attack due to people staring at them. Their ineptness to think logically and coherently in such a situation, as well as being unable to cope with very intense emotions such as dread and shame only make it worse for the person suffering from scopophobia.
Oftentimes, someone with scopophobia will not realize that their fear is out of touch with reality and over-the-top, even when they are not feeling anxious. When convictions such as these are withheld for long periods of time, such as months or years, it is possible for them to develop other mental disorders akin to worrying about people staring at them, such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Symptoms of Scopophobia
As is the case with all other phobias, the main symptom someone with scopophobia can expect to experience is anxiety. In fact, oftentimes the intense anxiety they will experience will typically be intertwined with feelings of shame and even self-pity. They may be deeply embarrassed that they are unable to abstain from feeling as though everyone who is near them is staring at them.
Someone with scopophobia may experience self-loathing as they wonder why they feel this way, while so many others do not. Be that as it may, feeling that you’re being stared at is not inherently abysmal. In fact, this automatic impulse that many of us experience may simply be a result of an evolutionary adaptation, as it would be plausible to think that our very distant ancestors, who lived in much less civilized societies than what we do now, were encouraged to be somewhat weary of other people as a survival tactic.
Depending on the individual’s genetic makeup and many other factors, someone with untreated scopophobia may eventually develop depression as well, especially if the particular individual is especially self-loathing to the point to where they are borderline self-hating. However, this will depend on a case to case basis.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of this phobia:
- Intense anxiety based on the perception that people are staring at them
- Anxiety at the mere thought of other people staring at them
- Unable to cope with very intense emotions such as fear, shame, or guilt
- Muscle tension, increased heart rate, shakiness, and sweating
- Their mind may begin to race, rendering them unable to think coherently
- They may be highly critical of themselves with unrealistic expectations
Causes of Scopophobia
The exact causes of scopophobia are not entirely known. However, genetics and one’s environment may play a crucial role in someone developing this mental illness. For example, someone with a family history of anxiety disorders, or any other sort of mental disorder for that matter may have a higher chance of developing scopophobia due them having an increased risk of being genetically predisposed to developing mental illness. Such a genetic predisposition may then only require that some sort of traumatic experience occur for them to develop full blown scopophobia.
Such a traumatic experience that could potentially cause someone to develop scopophobia could be that perhaps they had an extremely embarrassing meltdown while giving a speech to a large crowd or maybe they drew a blank while speaking at a press conference and they felt immensely inadequate after it occurred.
Most humans care somewhat about how others perceive them, some more than others. A clear example of this is someone “fixing themselves up” before going on a dinner date. Though some people may assert that they do not care at all what others think of them, an antithetical conviction may actually be “the norm”. This may be due to an evolutionary advantage as it may have been in our best interest to be concerned with the way the kings, pharaohs, and commoners of the time perceived us to prevent being excommunicated by the community or even killed.
There are no treatments that are specifically designed for scopophobia. However, talk therapy, exposure therapy, and anti-anxiety medication may be able to significantly improve the symptoms associated with this condition. Talk therapy may be quite advantageous for someone suffering with scopophobia as it can help them to be more cognizant of the many faults in their thinking patterns, as well as providing them ways to improve them. They can also expect to learn many new and effective coping skills for when they are in the midst of a panic attack.
Exposure therapy is probably one of the most common and successful forms of therapy for people suffering with phobias. Just as the name implies, this form of therapy works by having the patient slowly become exposed to their fear over time. In context to treating scopophobia, the therapist may ask the patient to go out in certain public settings to try and expose themselves to their fear of being stared at, along with giving them the necessary skills to cope with the anxiety they can expect to experience.
Reducing Caffeine for Scopophobia
It is no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day can aid in making you more anxious. This makes sense when we look closely at how caffeine affects our body’s physiology. When we consume a high dose of caffeine, our heart will start to beat faster and we become more tense. Essentially, our body will begin to go into a “fight or flight” state of mind. Such a frame of mind is often a precursor for someone with scopophobia to experience panic attacks.
So, consuming little to no caffeine throughout the day may be able to significantly help reduce your day to day anxiety. Although doing so will likely not make all of your anxiety go away, it will indeed help you to reduce any unnecessary suffering that you would have otherwise experienced if you were to consume a large amount of caffeine.
Beverages like coffee and tea are often high in caffeine, as well as some energy drinks. In fact, even some foods have caffeine in them as well, such as dark chocolate. Being more conscious of your daily caffeine consumption may help you to reduce some of the symptoms associated with scopophobia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Scopophobia
DBT is a very effective form of treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation. It is often used to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, it can also be very advantageous for someone suffering from anxiety disorders like scopophobia too. This is due to the numerous amount of coping skills you can expect to learn in a DBT group. These groups typically last about 6 months long and can have anywhere from two people to several people depending on how many join the group.
One very effective DBT skill for helping someone with scopophobia is half-smiling. This technique works by having you think about that which you fear or upsets you all while slightly raising the corners of your mouth by lightly smiling, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it isn’t enough to just think about your fear while half-smiling, you also have to try and refrain from entertaining those painful emotions that your specific fear may evoke.
Mindfulness meditation is also heavily used in DBT and can greatly benefit someone with scopophobia as it is done in a group setting, which helps to put the patient out of their comfort zone. These group mindfulness practices may include drinking warm tea to hone in on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply focusing on the breath.
Coping ahead is another very useful DBT skill that can help someone with scopophobia. With coping ahead, you will want to find a place where you can sit down quietly without distraction. Close your eyes and then think about the many different possible scenarios where you would face your specific fear and overcome it or cope with it. Doing so will help you to be much better adept at coping with your scopophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Meditation for Scopophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from scopophobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimous state. There are many different ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also many different meditation apps which are designed to make things as easy as possible for you.
Mindfulness has the potential to significantly help those suffering from scopophobia due to how it will help one to distract themselves from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any sort of emotional baggage attached to it, such as by focusing on the breath for example. This is one of the most basic ways that one can meditate and be present.
For someone with scopophobia in the midst of a panic attack, redirecting one’s attention to the various sensations felt when breathing can actually help to reduce the amount of mental anguish experienced during such an influx of anxiety.
To implement mindfulness meditation to help relieve one’s symptoms of scopophobia, you can do so by paying close attention to the way the muscles in your abdomen and chest contract and relax with every inhale and exhale. You can spend time dwelling on how it feels as your chest expands during each inhale and how it sinks in with every exhale.
Besides focusing on your breathing, you can also focus on the sounds around you, the way your skin feels as you touch certain objects, the way foods taste, as well as the way certain aromas smell. Essentially, honing into your 5 senses can significantly help you to reduce some of the anxiety that is associated with scopophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Scopophobia
CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve one’s mental health. It is a modality that is often used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with scopophobia may also be able to benefit from CBT as well seeing as how it would allow them to have a much better understanding as to why they think and behave the way they do in relation to their irrational fears.
CBT can be immensely helpful for someone with scopophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with scopophobia is exposed to their fear, they will almost always have an instantaneous subconscious reaction to their fear. Such a lack of introspection is likely a large part of why someone with this condition will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you to take a step back and analyze your fears more deeply than you typically would.
Besides learning to be more fastidious with regards to understanding one’s specific fears, someone with scopophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Scopophobia
MBSR is an 8-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and other sorts of mental anguish. MBSR may be able to significantly help someone who is suffering from scopophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with scopophobia can expect to learn a plethora of different skills that can help them to relieve the intense anxiety that’s associated with their specific phobia.
Talk to your doctor or therapist to see if MBSR can help you to reduce the intensity of your symptoms of scopophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Exposure Therapy for Scopophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as scopophobia. It can be an efficient way to help desensitize the patient to their specific fears. Be that as it may, it is imperative that the therapist implementing it on their patient is very adept at doing so. For example, if the therapist were to slightly expose someone with scopophobia to their fear, then it may not be very effective as they may need a higher amount of exposure to truly trigger any sort of worthwhile change in the patient.
The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to excessively expose someone with scopophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their scopophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with scopophobia has a very strong sense of just how severe their symptoms are so that they can know the level of exposure that the patient will likely be able to handle.
Exercise for Scopophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including scopophobia. Specifically, cardiovascular exercise can significantly help to relieve one’s stress. This is not to say that weight-resistance training would not benefit someone with anxiety, but rather that aerobic exercise is has been shown to be more effective at releasing those feel good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins.
According to the American Psychology Association, exercise can help to condition the mind to better cope with stressful situations. This makes sense when we take into consideration the high amount of stress that the body is put under during strenuous exercise. So, if you yourself are sedentary, then engaging in some form of aerobic exercise may be able to significantly help reduce your symptoms of scopophobia by making it much easier for you to cope with the anxiety and stress that’s associated with this condition.
There are many different aerobic modalities that you can partake in to help reduce your symptoms of scopophobia, such as swimming, biking, skiing, walking, and jogging. You can also acquire the many benefits of exercise by playing sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and racquetball, among many other sports. Engaging in some form of exercise consistently may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with scopophobia over time.
Medication Therapy for Scopophobia
These types of medications aren’t only for people who suffer from depression as they can also help people suffering from anxiety disorders as well, such as scopophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of scopophobia.
These types of drugs are typically taken on a daily basis. They can indeed help prevent panic attacks from occurring, but they are more so used to help reduce people’s daily anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see if taking antidepressants can help to reduce your symptoms of scopophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe scopophobia due to the fact that people with phobias often experience panic attacks as well. Some common anti-anxiety medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, among many others.
These types of drugs are not typically taken on a daily basis, but they may be insofar as their scopophobia is severe enough. However, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor before you decide to do so to ensure that it is safe and effective.
Yoga for Scopophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from scopophobia. In part, this is due to the meditative state of mind that yoga tends to emit in those who practice it on a consistent basis. Yoga can be thought of as meditation in motion. It can help to relieve some of the anxiety associated with scopophobia due to the mere fact that by engaging in yoga, your attention will be redirected to something more productive.
There are many different types of yoga that someone with scopophobia can benefit from, such as hatha yoga or hot yoga, among many others. Nevertheless, regardless of the many different forms of yoga that exist, virtually all of them can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with scopophobia.
If you have never practiced yoga before, then it may be in your best interest to take a class or watch some guided videos that can help you through each pose. Just like with meditation, the more you practice yoga, the more adept you will become at it. Besides helping you to reduce your symptoms of scopophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
If you think you may be suffering from some of the symptoms of this condition, then you may benefit from therapy. Feel free to reach out to your doctor or local mental health clinic to see what your available options are and to see if there is any sort of discount or promo code available to help you with the costs of treatment, as well as if your health insurance will cover treatment costs.