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What Is Scopophobia?

By Jillian O Keeffe
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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