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What Causes a Fear of Attention?

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  • Written By: Lily Ruha
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2016
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The causes of a fear of attention are attributed to a combination of genetics, physiological factors and environmental influences. Some individuals who exhibit shyness have experienced abuse, criticism and/or rejection throughout their lives, resulting in the desire to limit negative attention. Growing up in a sheltered environment with limited social exposure might result in fearing attention in social situations. Fears and anxieties sometimes run in families, limiting opportunities for social interaction. Physiologically, individuals who have an overactive amygdala, which is a certain part of the brain, might experience more fear than the average person.

Fear of attention is often linked directly to past negative experiences. A person who was consistently belittled or ridiculed as a child might become a shy adult. When experiences of positive attention are limited in a person's life, attention sometimes becomes a source of discomfort and distress. Remedying this problem in the shy individual involves validating strengths, talents and accomplishments. Over time and with repeated effort, a shy individual can become comfortable with receiving positive attention from others.

Some mental health conditions, such as social anxiety disorder, also involve a fear of attention. People who have social phobia typically have difficulty interacting with others. Feeling self-conscious, they might fear that people will remark on their appearance or judge their behaviors or choices. The cause of the condition is undetermined, but is believed to stem from a combination of genetic, physiological and environmental factors.

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Growing up with limited social interaction also might be a cause of a fear of attention. A parent who has social anxiety disorder or a general dislike of social situations might limit interactions with relatives, friends and neighbors. Going to great lengths to avoid social contact might present itself in a variety of ways. Avoiding family reunions, waiting for neighbors to go inside before getting the mail and letting all phone calls go to voice mail are a few examples. Children who grow up observing patterns of avoiding others in social situations might mimic these behaviors and become uncomfortable with receiving attention from others.

Fear of attention also might be rooted in physiological factors and brain chemistry. The amygdala is the part of the brain that reacts to stressors and makes fear-related decisions. Individuals who have an overactive amygdala typically experience greater anxiety in situations that others might find harmless. In a social situation, an innocent remark or words of praise might cause fear in a person who has an overactive amygdala if he or she misinterprets the remark.

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lighth0se33
Post 4

@DylanB – Even good parents can have a negative effect on the way their child responds to attention. I have great parents, but because my mother was socially reclusive and did not like to be noticed at all, I grew up to be terrified of attention.

Attention from strangers is the worst, because you never know what to expect. I can remember my mother avoiding people in stores and around the neighborhood as much as possible, but at that young age, I never knew why. I just thought that was the natural way to behave.

I have become less afraid of attention over the years, but it's been a struggle. When you have fear of attention ingrained into your being as a kid, it's difficult to overcome.

DylanB
Post 3

Parents who are either physically or emotionally abusive can cause their children to have an extreme fear of attention. This is because the kids associate attention of any kind with punishment or belittlement. Parents can have such a profound effect on their children with just a few words.

feasting
Post 2

Being ridiculed as a child is what caused my social anxiety disorder. The kids at school made fun of me, and the embarrassment was just too much.

I didn't even seek out positive attention as I grew older, because any time that you are seeking attention, you run the risk that it might be negative instead of positive. This held me back a lot, because I didn't want to be the best at anything for fear that I might be noticed.

I finally started taking medication for this, and it helped a great deal. I am now able to start conversations with coworkers without that dreaded sweating and heart pounding that used to happen to me.

JackWhack
Post 1

I have always loved being the center of attention, so it was hard for me to relate to my friend's social inhibitions. She wanted to go totally unnoticed most of the time, and this made it hard for us to hang out together in public.

I am not aware of anything traumatic in her past, so I think she might just have an overactive amygdala. I know she can't control this, so I don't try to get her to change anymore.

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