In the past, blushing was seen as maidenly and modest; it was an acceptable, even praiseworthy, character trait. The derivations of the word blush show that its meaning has changed through the centuries, even if only subtly.
The modern meaning of the word “Blush” indicates that blushing is a normal response. Blushing can be caused by a reaction to a sudden strong emotion such as embarrassment, anger or confusion. The sympathetic nervous system reacts to these emotions by causing the blood vessels in the face to widen, thus more blood flows into these vessels, reddening the face as a result.
Although blushing is a normal occurrence, it does not usually occur with great frequency. A person must be taken off guard before they will be overcome by a glowing blush. As we grow older and surer of ourselves, we tend to blush less often.
Nevertheless, there are some occasions when blushing becomes problematic. The syndrome of Excessive or Pathological Facial Blushing is one that can cause more stress than normal blushing. Deeper symptoms of stress can arise from this abnormal blushing.
Before digging deeper into this point, it should be noted that women blush more readily than men do. As far as present research goes, no-one has been able to definitively prove why this is so. It has been pointed out in one sociological study that 1. “…Blushing is a signal of honesty…and shows that you care about being truthful.” (http://www.askabiologist.org.uk/answers/viewtopic.php?id=203). Could it be inferred then that blushing is a sign of vulnerability?
What Is Erythrophobia?
Abnormal or excessive blushing is defined by its distressing frequency. This very frequent blushing may be caused by insignificant emotional reactions or seemingly by nothing at all. Yet it can lead to great social and personal misery. A combination of embarrassment and an actual fear of this recurrent blushing may bring about a disorder known by the acronym SAD. These letters stand for Social Anxiety Disorder.
Yet another result of the fear of over-frequent blushing is Erythrophobia. It is worth breaking this word down into its component parts, as a means of demonstrating how closely the word is related to its cause. The word “Phobia” is one that is fairly commonly understood to mean “fear” or “fear of”. It is often used as a suffix, for instance, in words such as agoraphobia, the fear of wide open spaces and hydrophobia, the fear of water.
Erythrophobia means “fear of “redness” because the syllable “erythro” is derived from the Greek word for the color red and is then joined to the syllable “phobia.”
The word Erythrophobia may mean fear of redness, but in daily life, this fear plays out as a kind of nervous distaste of blushing because it is happening too frequently. Normal blushing can be considered as a social signal that indicates shyness, awkwardness, embarrassment, or even a feeling of being exposed in some way. This feeling of exposure can be read as an indication of a dishonesty revealed, an indication that someone is lying, or that someone has momentarily “lost face” in a social situation, due to nervousness, shyness or even deviousness.
For the person who suffers from Erythrophobia, blushing becomes a kind of torture. Shame at the misunderstandings caused by constant, excessive facial blushing can wreak a destructive toll. Some sufferers of Erythrophobia may even leave behind a promising career. Their preference becomes hiding behind closed doors, so as never to be seen again with a bright red blush covering their face. There is an enormous difference between normal facial blushing and Erythrophobia. Erythrophobia or the fear of excessive facial blushing is defined as a disease caused by anxiety; it is an anxiety disorder.
What Can Be Done About Erythrophobia?
For friends and family members who know someone suffering from erythrophobia, the advice that is usually given is not to mention that glaring facial redness. It is usually very sensitive people who suffer from this disorder; there is no need for people to point out to them what is happening. The overly sensitive people who suffer such a condition are usually very self-conscious as it is.
In cases where Erythrophobia has become severe enough to cause social retreat, some remedy should be sought. It is not necessary for anyone to be burdened with such a limitation for the rest of their life. Remedial treatments mostly fall into three categories-
l Relaxation Therapies.
If a pharmacological cure is sought for erythrophobia, the patient may be prescribed an anti-anxiety medication. Paroxetine and similar SSRI medications are known for their carminative powers and their ability to reduce obsessive thoughts. This may be a positive choice for a sufferer of erythrophobia as these medications are fairly gentle and they do not produce many side-effects.
Clonidine is another medication which may be prescribed for erythrophobia. Although this medication may be effective in stabilizing the over-reactive effects of the vascular system, it does produce some uncomfortable side effects.
A surgical operation called an endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy may work wonders in the treatment of erythrophobia. In this operation, the nerve residing within the neck which is the cause of facial blushing is severed through an incision in the armpit.
Natural Therapies Should be Investigated.
While these surgical and chemical treatments may work to cure the physical manifestations of erythrophobia, the heightened psychological anxiety that is the catalyst for the physical symptoms should be treated. Heightened anxiety may be the cause of many other symptoms unless it is addressed.
Techniques such as Yoga and muscle relaxation may have positive effects on anxiety if they are practiced regularly. Techniques involving the breath may also be practiced to good effect.
These techniques have strong physiological effects such as slowing the heart rate and deepening the breath which results in a calmer frame of mind. They are also therapeutic in increasing self-esteem and in providing a feeling of increased self-control and trust in the self.
Where Erythrophobia has left a sufferer feeling bereft of self-confidence, relaxation therapies and gentle counseling aid in the development of confidence and optimism about the future.