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Looking Into Ophthalmophobia: The Fear of Being Stared at

Ophthalmophobia is the  fear of being stared at by other people/ Photo By Khosro via Shutterstock

 

Being conscious of how people perceive themselves comes naturally to humans. Some may care more than others. In relation to this concern, they may also come to develop an intense fear of being stared at. This perception that many people are staring at them is often accompanied by embarrassment and self-loathing.

This mental health condition which is described as being afraid of people’s stares is called Ophthalmophobia. Symptoms of this mental illness often manifest when an individual is exposed to a social situation that calls attention to them.

 

Definition

According to Phobia Source, Ophthalmophobia is described as the deadly fear of being stared at by other people. It may also be linked to the mental condition of being afraid of attracting attention to themselves. It is a fear classified as being both a specific and social phobia.

Ophthalmophobia is derived from the Greek terms “ophthalmo” which means “eye” or “sight” and “phobos” meaning fear. Common-phobias.com states that it is also known as Scopophobia or Scoptophobia.

 

Causes

The specific reasons as to why a person has acquired Ophthalmophobia are not identified. Experts theorize that it may be a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If a person’s family has a previous record of mental disorders or anxiety disorder, there is a high probability that they will also have this condition. With this kind of genetic history, it may only take a traumatic experience for them to trigger Ophthalmophobia, Disorder.net says.

Some of the examples of traumatic experiences that could trigger its development are having a nervous breakdown in front of an audience in the middle of a speech or forgetting what to say while speaking at a press conference. After that traumatic experience, they may have feelings of not being enough.

It is normal for human beings to be conscious of how others view them. For instance, they may fix themselves in front of the mirror to look presentable to a dinner date. Even though some may claim that they are not concerned about other’s perception of them, the opposite is considered the standard. This manner of thinking may have developed as an evolutionary advantage. Years before, it was believed that it was favorable to care about how both rulers, such as kings or  pharaohs, and commoners perceived an individual because this would reduce the risk of them being killed or excommunicated.

Symptoms

Like most phobias, those who are affected by Ophthalmophobia will mostly manifest symptoms of anxiety. Most of the time, this feeling of anxiousness will accompany feelings of shame and self-pity. They may feel extremely ashamed for not being able to avoid the people whom they feel are staring at them.

Ophthalmophobia patients may also ponder as to why they are getting this sensation while others are not experiencing this. Although in reality, getting the sensation that other people are staring is not always a hopeless case. In the ancient times, it was believed that this kind of feeling was used as a survival technique. There is a theory that humans learned to be cautious and watchful of other people.

In more severe cases, if the patient does not seek treatment for their intense fear of being stared at, especially if they are currently experiencing some some self-hatred, it will put them at risk of it developing into depression.

The signs that a person has Ophthalmophobia are :

1. Feeling extremely anxious when they feel that other people are staring at them

2. Even the sole thought of people staring at them makes them intensely anxious

3. Not being able to handle fear, guilt and shame

4. Rapid heartbeat, muscle tension, sweating and shaking

5. They may become demanding of themselves and have impossible expectations

6. Due to their mind being worried, they may not be able to think properly
 

Exposure Therapy might help an individual cope with  Ophthalmophobia/ Photo By WAYHOME studio via Shutterstock

 

Treatment

The suggested approach of treatment of Ophthalmophobia mostly consists of  therapies. The following therapies a patient should try to recover from their intense fear of being stared at includes:

Talk Therapy

In Talk Therapy, the therapist will help the patient identify the errors of their way of thinking and how to change them. The patient will also be educated on how to utilize coping strategies for their panic attacks.  

Exposure Therapy

Under this kind of therapy, the clinician will slowly increase the exposure of the patient to their fear. They may tell the patient to go to public places in which they may be stared at while also teaching them effective coping skills that could help them deal with the anxiety they experience.

The five stages of this therapy are: evaluation, feedback, developing a fear hierarchy, exposure and building.

Hypnoanalysis (Hypnotherapy)

This therapy involves the therapist tapping into the patient’s subconscious mind and making it more susceptible to suggestions. The aim of this is to be able help change the patient’s behavior patterns.

The therapist will then speak straight to subconscious of the patient, which increases the chances of being able to search for the root cause of the phobia and recommending new ideas and positive suggestions. The positive advice may aid them in making the changes they want. This helps influence the mind to associate different feelings to doctors, medical equipment and other treatment,. This positive association can be one upon going through various sessions.

 

not being able to handle fear a sigh of Ophthalmophobia/ Photo By Master1305 via Shutterstock

 

There may be some people who prefer not to have their minds played with. Still, this type of therapy is known to be safe and to work immediately. It was first approved as an approach to therapy by the American Medical Association in 1958.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

Neuro-Linguistic Programming is defined as the study and practice of how an individual forms their reality. Its basis is that a person’s words represent an internal, unconscious view of their problems. If that person keeps using and thinking incorrect words and views, it will repeatedly create an underlying problem. In this therapy, it is believed that a person’s attitude becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When a patient undergoes this therapy, the therapist will examine the words used to explain their condition, such as the symptoms or problems connected to their health. They will also assess the patient’s facial expressions and body movements that are linked to their description of their condition. Once they recognize what is wrong with the patient’s perception, they will be able to inform the patient of the underlying problem. They will assist the patient in changing their thoughts and mental associations to correct their biases.

Energy Psychology

This kind of therapy involves many strategies. This may include techniques like yoga, tai chi, acupressure, qi gong, prana and energy medicine. The use of these strategies can aid in activating energy points on the surface of the skin. Together with the help of psychological processes, it can transfer the brain’s electrochemistry. Even though there is much debate about using this treatment method, it has been shown to be able to help phobics manage their fears.

 

Individuals who suffer from Ophthalmophobia are advised to see a doctor for diagnosis and the the identification of the appropriate treatment method. Afterwards, the doctor may refer them to a therapist or psychiatrist to get their treatment started.

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