Blushing - Psychological Techniques for Overcoming Blushing.
Blushing, i.e. reddening of the face, neck and / or chest, is itself a natural phenomenon. Blushing in embarrassing situations is a very common experience, and most people can recall at least a few instances of this having occurred in their lives. However for some people blushing can become a pervasive a debilitating problem. It can lead to those people avoiding situations because they (often wrongly) assume people are thinking negatively about them because of their blushing (eg. red face, neck, and/or chest). This can affect people's social lives and even their careers.
Blushing can be triggered by things other than social situations. However if your blushing occurs in social situations and/or when you recall something that makes you anxious, then anxiety is likely to be playing a key role in the maintenance of your blushing. Blushing can sometimes be part of Social Phobia, or other anxiety conditions. While in Social Phobia the blushing is triggered by the social situation, or even the fear of blushing in that context, in other anxiety disorders the blushing may be triggered by something unrelated to social situations or embarrassment. Nonetheless once the anxious person blushes there can be a secondary anxiety which can maintain the blushing.
Blushing can also be caused by medical conditions and so it is advisable to talk to your GP about your condition prior to seeking assistance from a psychologist.
Some people appear to have a biological disposition towards blushing which becomes exacerbated by social anxiety. In these people psychological intervention can still often be of assistance because regardless of what is occurring with the biological processes, the psychological component, which can be either the trigger or the maintaining factor for blushing, can be targeted with psychological techniques.
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The Blushing Cycle
People with excessive blushing often find that the problem snowballs after one particular incident. They might blush on one occasion in front of other people and feel quite embarrassed. Sometimes it is obvious that anxiety caused it during this first incident, but in some cases it can occur for no obvious reason at all.
However once this first incident has occurred, some people find that a “seed of doubt” is planted in the back of their mind. When they next enter a similar social situation they think to themselves, either consciously or subconsciously, “I hope I don't blush again”. This thought makes them more anxious and focussed on their face (or neck). The anxiety then triggers blushing. Then the next time they are in a similar situation they are even more concerned because now it has occurred twice. That concern again leads to more anxiety and blushing, and so on. It is becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and sometimes snowballs over time.
This can lead to avoidance of social situations but the avoidance itself can maintain the anxiety and prevent people from overcoming their blushing difficulties.