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Scopophobia: The Fear of Being Seen/ Stared By Others

Introduction

There are so many phobias that humans are facing in their daily life. Scopophobia is one of them. Scopophobia is a unique disorder in which a person feels panic of being stared at by others and he/ she avoids eye contact. It is a word of Greek origin and it is composed of two words; scopo means to look or to examine and phobia means fear (fear of anything). It is also known as scoptophobia and ophthalmophobia.  

What is scopophobia?

Scopophobia is characterized as an anxiety disorder. In this condition, a person fears that if he/ she will go out in public, people will stare at them.  A person avoids being in public places. In this era, sometimes we also fear how we are looking when we go out in public and this is the normal psychology of the person

However, scopophobia is a serious disorder in which the patients have an extreme fear of being stared at. It’s a kind of social phobia, it cannot be completely categorized as social phobia, it’s a type of specific phobia. The person suffering from it, fears so much that he/ she will think that someone is inspecting them.  

What are the Causes of Scopophobia?

 Scopophobia can be linked with any trauma that has happened in the past and it has left tremendous impacts. Any trauma such as being bullied and if someone has made fun of the person in public can lead to this fear.

Extreme self-consciousness (it means thinking that someone is constantly observing you) can also worsen the condition.

It can go away with time but if it doesn’t and persists for a long time then we can categorize it as scopophobia. This condition it needs immediate treatment because it can seriously affect your personal and professional life.

Symptoms of Scopophobia

Symptoms may vary from person to person but here are a few common symptoms of scopophobia

What Can Trigger an Attack of Scopophobia

  • Excessive worrying: the sufferer can feel extreme worrying that someone is looking at them
  • Increase heart rate (tachycardia): As we know our heart beats faster when we are in a phase of anxiety.
  • Trembling/ Shaking: It is normal physiology that if we fear something, there are some involuntary movements that occur in our body.
  • Hyperventilation: The scopophobia attack is so severe that the person will hyperventilate and many sufferers may also feel difficulty in breathing (dyspnea) which is another symptom of scopophobia.
  • Restlessness: The patient can have feelings of discomfort or restlessness during the attack of scopophobia.
  • Dry mouth: During the feeling of anxiety, our sympathetic nervous system is activated and it causes a decrease in salivation because of which we feel our mouth being dry.
  • Felling of panic and/ or Feeling of terror: When someone is facing this problem, he/ she can be terrified by thinking that someone is noticing them/ looking at them
  • Blushing: Some of the patients with scopophobia have another fear that is related to blushing; Erythrophobia. Erythrophobia is a persistent fear of blushing.

It is not only a social phobia but a person can be triggered by his/ her family members it is not always necessary that he/ she may be triggered by any stranger that’s why it can also happen at the home.

It can be mainly triggered by social speaking or if someone is constantly irritating the patient. Paying special attention to the patient can also trigger the attack of scopophobia. Criticizing or embarrassing the patient in front of the public can also trigger his/ her scopophobia.

Relation of Scopophobia with Other Disorders

It occurs mainly as a solitary disorder but sometimes it is related to some anxiety disorders and some neurological disorders. These irrational fears/ phobias can cause serious problems and the condition may worsen if not treated. Schizophrenia and many other disorders that are related to psychiatry can also be associated with this phobia.

Some medical conditions like Tourette’s syndrome, epilepsy, and some other movement disorders can also lead to this phobia. Because in these situations, the patient fears that his/ her condition can trigger the public to look at him/ her or he/ she might get an attack if they are staring

What Are the Impacts of Scopophobia on Your Daily Life?

It can seriously have an impact on your daily life. It can disturb your social and professional life. If you fear someone to look at you, you will probably skip going out whether it is your office or any social gathering. Eventually, you will skip opportunities in your office and it will have an impact on your professional life.

How Do I Know If I Have Scopophobia?

 You can look for the symptoms in yourself. Some symptoms are anxiety if someone is looking at you, excessive worrying, increase heart rate and other symptoms are discussed in the above topic. You have to examine yourself closely and look for any symptoms.

If the symptoms persist for a long time or they cause serious problems in your daily life then you should immediately consult your doctor. 

How Can I Treat Scopophobia?

There are many ways to cope with scopophobia. Firstly we have to find out, if there is an underlying cause because of which the patient is manifesting scopophobia, then we will prioritize treating the underlying cause. The scopophobia will go away on its own if we treat the underlying cause.

If there is no underlying cause then we will move to other strategies. We can treat scopophobia by medications or by non-medicated therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy.

Non- Medicated Therapies of Scopophobia

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: In this strategy, the doctor recognizes the underlying cause to which the fear is generated in the patient. The therapist will recognize the unhealthy thought processing of the patient and give suggestions to work on his thoughts and behavior. By following this therapy, the patient slowly gradually sees improvements in his behavior and thinking.

Exposure Therapy: In this type of therapy the therapist will work on your weakened areas, he/ she will try to evaluate the cause of scoptophobia, and then he will work on those areas which you have been avoiding for so long. This therapy includes the following steps

  • Evaluation
  • Feedback
  • Developing a fear hierarchy
  • Exposure
  • Building

Medicated Therapy of Scopophobia

Medicines used to treat scoptophobia are mainly anti anxiolytics but antidepressants, sedatives, and beta-blockers can also be used to treat scopophobia. Before taking any medications, one should consult his/ her doctor.

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