What Is Scopophobia?

Jillian O Keeffe

Scopophobia is a technical name for a psychological problem when a person is afraid of other people looking at him or her. It may be a symptom of serious psychiatric disease, such as schizophrenia, or it may simply be an expression of intense shyness. Typically, scopophobia is treatable through psychological techniques.

Social phobia is a mild form of scopophobia.
Social phobia is a mild form of scopophobia.

The scopo portion of the word scopophobia is derived from the Greek word for "look" or "examine," and the phobia portion of the word means "fear" in Greek. People who become stressed when other people look at them have this condition. Social anxiety, or simple extreme shyness, are other terms which may be more familiar in everyday language.

Scopophobia may result in severe fear and panic around other people.
Scopophobia may result in severe fear and panic around other people.

Symptoms are diverse, and may or may not be noticeable to others. The person may experience unpleasant feelings such as dread, fear or panic. Physical symptoms may include shaking, facial blushes or stammering. At its core, the problem stems from a strong reaction to the scrutiny of others, and this reaction of fear is not usually necessary. When a social phobic develops a less stressed approach to social situations, the social phobia goes away.

Scopophobia can manifest as social anxiety and extreme shyness.
Scopophobia can manifest as social anxiety and extreme shyness.

Everyday situations as well as especially stressful occasions like public speaking can bring out the symptoms of scopophobia. Social phobia, which is a mild form of scopophobia, affects a significant percentage of people, especially in the teenage years. Many people grow out of this crippling self consciousness, and fear of failure and embarrassment that characterizes intense shyness.

Exercise can help ease anxiety by spurring the release of endorphins, the brain's natural mood stabilizers.
Exercise can help ease anxiety by spurring the release of endorphins, the brain's natural mood stabilizers.

Therapists in the field of psychology and psychiatrists are the two sections of society who use the term scopophobia in their work. In the case of psychiatrists, the presence of intense social anxiety, and abnormal responses to normal social situations, can be one symptom of an underlying problem. One example of a serious psychiatric illness which can have scopophobia as a symptom is schizophrenia.

An individual who is extremely shy may develop scopophobia.
An individual who is extremely shy may develop scopophobia.

Psychologists and other professionals in the field of psychology such as hypnotherapist, also recognize scopophobia as a condition, and it may not be a symptom of another illness, but rather a problem that can be directly addressed. People who are extremely shy and worry about social situations may be able to develop a more relaxed attitude to the attention of other people through psychological therapies. Available treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy and treatments that expose the person to situations that he or she would usually avoid in order to encourage non-stressful reactions. Medicine that temporarily alleviates anxiety is another option.

Scopophobia may be a sign of a serious psychiatric disease.
Scopophobia may be a sign of a serious psychiatric disease.
Psychiatrists often use scopophobia in their work.
Psychiatrists often use scopophobia in their work.
Occasions that involve public speaking may bring out the symptoms of scopophobia.
Occasions that involve public speaking may bring out the symptoms of scopophobia.

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