What is Erythrophobia?

wiseGEEK Writer

Those searching for erythrophobia online will repeatedly see it defined as “fear of blushing.” Though technically, there is some truth in this description, the definition does not go far enough, or explain why it is that anyone would be afraid to blush. There are much more complicated issues at work here. Blushing is feared because it is not under control of the person, and the amount of blushing occurring may lead people to fear its repeated occurrence. This could generate significant social anxiety and affect one's life.

Excessive blushing may be associated with excessive sweating.
Excessive blushing may be associated with excessive sweating.

It’s fairly easy to understand why people might suffer from erythrophobia. Blushing is read as an emotional sign in many cultures. It can mean embarrassment, interest or romantic interest. It’s not hard to imagine the toll that might take on a person who blushes all the time, especially in environments like a high school, where things such as romantic interest are highly regarded.

People fear blushing because it is not under their control.
People fear blushing because it is not under their control.

There may be medical reasons for excessive blushing and the risk for erythrophobia. Sometimes the excessive blushing is associated with excessive sweating or hyperhidrosis. At other times excessive blushing simply occurs with no clear underlying reason. What is known is that there is failure on some basic level for the sympathetic nervous system to control blushing reaction, and thus blush is not limited to the circumstances under which it normally might happen. It’s also the case that little cause may be found for this abnormal sympathetic nerve response.

For some people, erythrophobia will then occur. They are unable to control blushes, and they worry about how others will think of them. This could lead to significant isolation. Some people don’t want to leave their homes, and they certainly don’t want to enter into any social situations. This is a true phobia because fear is so great. It is also an irrational fear, not fully justified by constant blushing.

The treatment for erythrophobia may be a little different than treatment for other phobias. It’s recognized people who suffer from this have a legitimate concern: excessive blushing, even though they overestimate the degree to which others might judge them for it. From a medical standpoint, there can be some tactics for controlling blushing and flushing symptoms. These may include giving medications of a variety of types, such as antidepressants and beta-blockers. Some patients opt for a surgery, endoscopic transthoracic sympathectomy, which cuts off sympathetic nerve response controlling blushing.

Surgery isn’t necessarily a full cure and does have potential negative consequences. Moreover, it doesn’t mean erythrophobia is ended. Even if blush response is cut off or reduced, the person may still harbor continued fear of blushing. For this reason, behavioral therapy to work on phobia control is also of great use. In contrast, some people find that successful treatment relieves them of both the fear and the underlying reason that sparked it.

Discussion Comments


What about a concomitant case of erythrophobia, hyperhidrosis AND post-menopausal hot flashes and night sweats with accompanying insomnia? What type medical specialty(ies) is/are needed to properly address a case of multi-symptomatics?

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