Scopophobia is the fear of being looked at. While some describe it as the fear of being stared at, it may not always be the case. People who have scopophobia feel distressed whenever someone pays visual attention to them. Some feel distressed only if someone looks directly into their eyes.
There is a misconception that scopophobia is related to or more associated with timid people. In my opinion, it is only partially true. While most people suffering from scopophobia appear to be timid, mild, and irresolute, it can also be present in very confident people. (I’ve met some psychopaths who couldn’t bear to be looked at, maybe for reasons other than fear or timidity.)
As it happens with most phobias, people having the fear of being looked at can enter a cycle. They may develop avoidance responses because they think they’re actively being observed. These responses may be easily noticed, resulting in more eyes directed towards them. This increased attention causes more blushing, making the situation worse for these people.
What kind of Personalities can Develop Scopophobia?
It’s generally considered that timid personalities can develop the fear of being looked at. However, this is not true. I have observed that at least three kinds of personalities are at an increased risk of developing this phobia.
People who are generally shy, mild, and timid are the ones who’ll often have the fear of being looked at. These people are generally docile, yielding, and submitting. They can also have a lack of confidence, stage fright or the fear of public speaking, and social anxiety disorder.
Irritative personalities can also be at an increased risk of developing this phobia. Irritative personalities are mostly reactionary and don’t want to be looked at. Sometimes, these personalities are described as “pig-headed” by the people around them. Their behavior can be confusing to those around them.
Contrary to popular belief, aggressive personalities can’t bear to be looked at. These personalities are critical of others, don’t want to be contradicted, and have an authoritative attitude towards others. I have seen some psychopathic personalities who couldn’t bear to be looked at. However, they may not feel fear the same way other personalities do. Instead, these personalities can’t bear to be looked at because of their aggression. We can say that these people don’t want to be challenged. What might seem an innocent friendly gesture to others can be taken as a hostile attitude by an aggressive person.
Scopophobia and Related Phobias
Scopophobia is often present in people who have stage fright or the fear of public speaking. People who suffer from social anxiety disorders are more prone to developing scopophobia. This is because the fear of being judged or scrutinized by others is present in both conditions.
People who have some sort of physical deformities are more prone to developing scopophobia. Movement disorders can also heighten the risk of developing scopophobia.
What are the Symptoms of Scopophobia?
If you have scopophobia, you might start avoiding social gatherings or places where you can become the center of attention. Some people with this condition can try to avoid even the attention of their loved ones, even family members. They may intentionally avoid meeting their friends and relatives. However, they may feel safe in large gatherings where there’s a thin chance of eyes resting on them.
People who have scopophobia can blush when someone looks at them. Erythrophobia or the fear of blushing can also be present in people already suffering from scopophobia. You can sweat, shake, and develop tachycardia (increased palpitations.)
To add to the misery, you might feel compelled to run away from the situation. You can behave impulsively, making the situation worse. Sometimes, you’re unable to collect your thoughts, near the point of collapsing, in the worst situations.
If the situation goes untreated, you may have trouble meeting your acquaintances.
What causes scopophobia remains largely unknown. However, there appears to be an association between scopophobia and a history of being bullied. If you have a history of being bullied or made fun of, you could be at an increased risk of developing this phobia.
Some youths go through a period of extreme self-consciousness in their adolescence. During this time, certain personalities are known to develop the fear of being looked at. However, this fear can subside greatly in the later years of life.
There’s no specific treatment for this phobia. Because it’s generally found co-occurring with other conditions or phobias, treating those phobias can decrease the fear of being looked at. Therapists should address the underlying conditions that cause this fear.
Patients can resort to different therapies to alleviate this life-limiting condition.