Fear of Blushing (Erythrophobia)
Erythrophobia is a form of social anxiety where sufferers worry about drawing negative attention to themselves by blushing. Unfortunately, this can become a self-perpetuating cycle, as the anxiety and embarrassment caused by blushing can produce more blushing. Sufferers may start to avoid socialising or events which may trigger it, which can eventually lead to an impaired quality of life. The fear can come from negative past experiences, for example being teased or bullied about blushing, or its possible some people are genetically pre-dosposed to blush more easily.
Below we provide some suggestions of self-help tips you can try to deal with the fear of blushing, and some suggestions for seeking professional help. CBT is the recommended evidence-based treatment of choice although there are a number of other options. Some of these are short-term fixes, to help when you are ‘in the moment’ (such as physically cooling down) and others take a more long-term approach.
Remember that some blushing is normal and common
One key thing to remember, whatever treatments you try, is that some amount of blushing is a normal physiological response. Akthough it can be very distressing for those with extreme blushing, there is usually nothing medically wrong – it is a result of nerves prompting blood vessels in the skin to enlarge to allow more blood flow. Some amount of blushing is typically part of the “fight or flight” respones- the widening blood vessels are what gives the skin its flushed appearance. Many people experience blushing, although some may be more genetically predisposed to it and it can sometimes arise without social anxiety.
Paradoxically, one of the best ways to stop blushing is to train yourself to stop worrying about it. “Just stop worrying about it” may sound impossible, and people with erythrophobia are often aware their fear is excessive or irrational. Treatments such as CBT should help with this and give you ways of handling the recurring anxiety, even if you have been struggling for a long time.
See this quote from our contributor George
I suffered from intense blushing (and fear of blushing, that caused more blushing!) from the age of 14 up to age 50). It meant that I shied away from encounters and acted the fool in order to cover it up. But this isn’t the way to go. What I do now – when I blush – is to try and own the reaction/situation; simply say to the person/group you are talking to, “I’m sorry, can I take a second….I don’t find this easy” or be honest and say, “I sometimes get social anxiety….can I take a second to relax”. You’ll be (pleasantly) surprised that people usually understand this, and will give you the time (and support) to get yourself sorted. If you do this often enough it will become second nature, and you’ll find that – in time – you will blush less (or worry less about blushing). It’s worked for me, and I no longer blush, whatever the situation! Try it….relax….and be honest about how you’re feeling with others. I hope this helps
Although erythrophobia sometimes result from bad experiences where others reacted negatively in the past, blushing may not always be judged harshly by others. There is research suggesting that people who blush may be regarded as more trustworthy. In fact, there may be a number of positive traits associated with blushing easily: https://www.businessinsider.com/blushing-easily-embarrassed-advantages .
Feeling your face turn red may also be less noticeable or of less concern to others than you think. With self compassion, time and practise, you may come to view your blushing as a natural response and less as a glaring weakness, and you will be more able to let the blushes come and go as they will.
Identify your triggers
There are both physical triggers and psychological triggers for blushing. It’s a good idea to try and identify what tends to make you blush by keeping records of when it happens. Then you can either avoid your triggers, or prepare in advance. (Avoiding situations that make you anxious is not a good long-term strategy as it can make social anxiety worse, but can be used, especially where triggers are physical
Triggers can include: stress and embarrassment, alcohol, heat, spicy food, caffeine and certain medications (such as antihistamines).
Occasionally there are medical reasons for excessive blushing and flushing (such as rosacea or the menopause) which can be discussed with your GP.
You should also consult your GP if you have other symptoms that occur with blushing such as shortness of breath, fainting or dizziness and chest pain. These may be symptoms of another disorder requiring treatment.
Green colour-correcting make-up can hide facial redness, and can be found in many chemists or beauty stores.
Physically cool down
Physically cool down if you can, as blushing is more likely when you are hot. Removing a layer of clothing, going to a cooler area, using a cold compress on your face or having a cooling drink of water can all help.
Use “in Situ” grounding techniques
See our pages on Grounding-techniques-to-help-calm-yourself-in-situ
Join a support group
You may want to join a local support group where you can find fellow sufferers and seek mutual assistance and advice.
Other forms of self-help
Practise relaxation techniques
Being physically relaxed will help in avoiding excessive blushing and your response to it if it does occur. This can include breathing exercises, which are some of the most effective and quickest ways to become more physically relaxed. See our general page on relaxation exercises here.
There are also various other complementary therapies that may aid overall relaxation, including acupuncture, reiki, aromatherapy and massage.
Exercise is a good way to reduce stress and anxiety in general, and is useful overall for reducing social anxiety.
You can also try exercising before an event where you are worried about blushing, Try doing this several hours beforehand and then give yourself time to cool down and relax before you get there.
As with all forms of social anxiety, it is a good idea to consult your GP if you are very concerned. Many of the recommended psychological treatments for social anxiety in general can be modified for erythrophobia.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
As with other forms of social anxiety, CBT is thought to be one of the best treatments available. It will help you to challenge your overly negative thoughts about blushing (such as re-assessing how much attention others pay to it) and to view the situations that cause you anxiety in a different way.
Using CBT does take time and persistence, but can ultimately be a very useful tool providing long term relief. See our main page on CBT here.
Other therapies such as ACT and Self-Compassion
These are other forms of psychological therapy that may help with the fear of blushing. Both of the following have similarities to CBT.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) involves learning to accept (rather than constantly struggle with or judge) negative thoughts and emotions as a natural part of life and as sometimes being appropriate responses to situations. See our page on ACT for Social Anxiety here.
Self-compassion therapy focuses on developing a more compassionate attitude to yourself and your difficulties. This involves learning to replace negative self-talk (such as being critical of yourself for blushing or telling yourself that everyone thinks you are weird because of it) with a more kind and supportive inner voice. Click here for information on self-compassion therapy via Verywellmind.com
Hypnosis is a specific form of relaxation that may help sufferers to reduce their worries about blushing. By entering a relaxed state, hypnotherapy can then help you to adopt different attitudes and beliefs, helping you to keep calm in trigger situations and encouraging more positive and relaxed ways of thinking about them. Hypnotherapists can provide face-to-face treatment, or they may also be happy to compile recorded hypnosis programmes tailored to your specific needs.
If you consult a hypnotherapist, you should ensure that they are accredited and reliable.
The British Society of Clinical Hypnotherapists seek to promote high standards of training and ethical conduct among their members, and have a searchable directory of accredited practitioners:
It is also possible to learn self-hypnosis and there are various online tracks that have been specifically produced to help with fear of blushing.
Some prescription medications may help with some aspects of blushing. For instance beta blockers (or other forms of anti-anxiety medication). Generally these are a short-term fix that can be taken prior to specific anxiety-inducing events (although some people are prescribed them longer term). They block the anxiety response in the body allowing users to remain calm in stressful situations.
Please consult your GP before taking any medication. See our pages on talking to your GP.
www.aboutsocialanxiety.com – How to stop blushing
www.socialanxietyinstitute.org: Blushing – A Symptom of Social Anxiety
Amazon book on ‘Coping with Blushing’ by RobertEdelman
Psychological tips for overcoming blushing: