In today’s article, we are talking about scopophobia, what it is, and how you can help yourself or someone else overcome it.
First, what is scopophobia?
Scopophobia is an anxiety disorder which can manifest in varied degrees (meaning that some people have it worse than others). A person with scopophobia experiences real and significant fear of being looked at, stared at, having his picture taken, or having people look at him or notice him in a crowd.
A person with scopophobia may experience:
- elevated heart rate
- irritation or edginess
- panic attacks
- muscular tension
- dizziness or disorientation
A sufferer of this disorder might deal with his feelings of anxiety or fear by avoiding groups, crowds, going out in public, presentations, public speaking, photography or videography. Feelings of discomfort, anxiety, or fear may result regardless of whether the individual is surrounded by family, friends, coworkers, or strangers.
Overcoming Scopophobia: Start With the Professionals
In general, the first thing we always recommend that you do when you experience such overwhelming feelings of anxiety, panic, or fear is to confer with your physician. While you might want self-diagnose yourself or assume that because you experience strong feelings out in public or in front of a camera, you have scopophobia, you could actually be doing yourself a disservice.
In some cases, strong reactions (or overreactions) to social situations can actually have a physical cause that can be treated by a doctor. While I don’t want to downplay the symptoms you may be experiencing if you fear that you are suffering from scopophobia, it is fairly well known that panic attacks and anxiety can be made worse by health conditions, diet, caffeine, lack of exercise, stress, and other external factors. I would highly recommend that you make an appointment with your doctor to start discussing how you are feeling.
If physical causes of the anxiety are ruled out, you should confer with a mental health professional. I’m not saying that medication is the solution, because each person is going to be different. But it could be that an underlying mental health condition could be the cause of the scopophobia, and treating the condition could help alleviate the scopophoba. For example, someone with untreated but severe PTSD could experience scopophobia, and it is possible that treating the underlying PTSD could help alleviate the scopophobia symptoms.
In many cases, a therapist can help guide you through therapy focused on helping you with your fears. This may include one-on-one counseling, group sessions, coping mechanisms, desensitization, as well as counseling to improve overall health, wellness, self-esteem and social skills.
Other Things You Can Do to Help With Scopophobia
If what you are experiencing is less of a physical or mental health condition, or you do not like the idea of seeing a doctor or therapist, then it is time to start looking at YOU. Sometimes, the cause of anxiety about being noticed by strangers or talking in front of strangers is a lack of self-confidence.
People who struggle with confidence often feel as though others will laugh at them or be critical of what they have to contribute. Some of this anxiety about presenting yourself in front of people is the result of just not having done it all that often. Experience with public speaking (though it can be terrifying and horrible) can help alleviate a lot of the fear and anxiety of getting up in front of people.
As a side story, I struggled most of my life with having my picture taken or of seeing myself on recorded video. It was such that I would cry while on camera, especially if I could see what was bring recorded, or if I knew that other people could see it (such as going live on Facebook or posting Youtube videos). I’m not saying that this will work for everyone, but the way I was able to get over my anxiety and fears (and crying on camera) was to do it more, to do it every day, to get in front of the camera and work through it and be horrible at it until it wasn’t so awful. I still struggle in front of the camera but it is no longer such a draining and emotional experience.
People who want to build self-confidence getting up in front of others could work to build up that confidence by:
- Admitting that you have a problem
- Try to stand up straight when you want to shy away
- Start small-speak to one person or two before building the number
- Record yourself when no one else can see, and if you can’t talk to the camera, try reading a book out loud or doing something else that gets you used to the speaking without having to come up with words from your brain
- Try recording just the audio, or just the video, but not both, so you can get used to both aspects one step at a time
- See if there is a way to make the thing you fear to be fun-can you involve trusted individuals, play games, or even earn rewards for doing the thing that you fear
- Find someone who has gone through what you are going through, and talk to them about it, see how they did it, and incorporate their strategies and advice into your own life
- Life coaching
- Wild or crazy experiences (an acting class, skydiving, traveling) can improve your confidence, because you know that you have overcome these challenges
- Join a group of people doing anything (art, music, hiking)
People who lack self confidence (especially in their physical form) hate the idea of having their picture taken or video taken of them, because they hate to see themselves (and all of the supposed flaws). You can try and “change” the things that bother you (hair, makeup, acne, weight gain/loss/shape). Or you can work on trying to accept them.
Ultimately, the one thing you can do wrong about your scopophobia is to ignore it, and let it control you, your life, and your pursuit of happiness.
Social anxiety is not a joke. People who struggle with it battle quietly, often behind the scenes where no one can see. If you are struggling with anxiety, or know someone who is, the best thing you can do is to support them and be there for them, while also quietly advocating that they take steps to overcome it.