What is Scopophobia and Do I Have It?
The Fear of Being Stared at and Drawing Attention to Yourself
We live in an age where attention is income and selfies are the currency. There are entire industries dedicated to the people that love to take pictures of their own face and show it to the world, in case the world forgot what they looked like in the last fifteen minutes. So there is no escape from attention seeking behavior associated with selfies and pictures.
But what does this mean for those of us that absolutely hate the idea of being the center of attention, for those of us that start to hyperventilate when someone asks for a selfie with us? It means we get left out—it's as simple as that. Unless we brave having a picture taken, or doing something to grab attention, we don't get to be a part of that world.
Our videos won't ever go viral because we will never make them, our selfies won't ever be making us money because we are convinced that nobody wants to look at our faces, and when the family talk to us at a wedding, we can't answer because we are too busy fighting a genuine urge to flee the scene like some sort of criminal.
What is Scopophobia?
Scopophobia is a recognized anxiety disorder that brings with it an intense fear of being looked or stared at and drawing attention to yourself. It can also be used in terms of having your photograph taken because this includes drawing attention to yourself.
Scopophobia is a social anxiety disease, so it is normally made worse in social situations such as large crowds, meeting new people or public speaking. It can cause the sufferer great stress to the point where the want to avoid social situations altogether because they are scared that these situations will trigger their anxieties.
What are the symptoms of Scopophobia?
Symptoms of Scopophobia can include:
- An increased heart rate in social situations. This can cause the sufferer to seem edgy and irritated when, in fact, they are very nervous.
- Hyperventilation. In some cases, the phobia is so strong that it can cause the sufferer to hyperventilate because they feel as though they are unable to breathe properly and their phobia has triggered their flight or fight response.
- Shaking and/or trembling. The sufferer will not be able to control this.
- Muscular tension. The sufferer's flight or fight response has been triggered and it has had an impact on the muscles.
- Dizziness or disorientation. This is thought to be caused by the panic and hyperventilation.
What might trigger an attack?
The triggers will depend on the person and the severity of their condition. Some people will only be affected under extreme circumstances, but some people with more severe cases of scopophobia will suffer every time they walk out of the house.
Scopophobia is not to be confused with agoraphobia. Scopophobia can occur indoors, too. It's not about being outside, it's about being looked at and noticed and having your picture taken. This can happen inside as well as outside. This is why it is a social anxiety disorder, because it is triggered by social interaction, not even always with strangers. Sometimes family members can trigger a fear response by turning too much attention to the person in question, and it isn't just negative attention that causes a response—any kind of attention can elicit the fear response suffered by those with scopophobia.
How to Cure Scopophobia
Scopophobia is something that you have to manage rather than cure; it is something that should always be addressed by a medical professional because if it is left untreated, it can have a severe impact on a person's life and cause more complex problems further down the line.
If you think you are dealing with this, then I would recommend seeking medical attention, sooner rather than later.