Ever wondered how Hypnotherapy helps people stop blushing?

I expect we all know someone in our lives, especially in school, college or work situations, who have blushed in public. For most who experience it, it is bothersome and they are affected by it, albeit mildly. For some, it can become very debilitating, enough to seek help to overcome it.

Blushing is a bodily response that signals inappropriate fear or distress and can become a major source of anxiety in social situations. Research suggests that people who anticipate their blushing before entering social situations are more likely to blush than those without this belief. In addition, blushing may dissipate slowly in people who are frightened of blushing (Drummond et al., 2003).

Treatment of blushing often focuses on decreasing the catastrophic response to blushing in real-life experiences, so the blusher becomes able to cope more easily with the anxiety associated with blushing (Mulkens, Bogels, de Jong, and Louwers, 2001). The aim here is to remove their fear associated with blushing, which then helps to reduce the severity of the blushing. It is thought that anxiety sustains the blushing episode rather than the initial response to the blushing trigger (Drummond et al., 2007).

Understanding the blushing response is necessary for many clients in helping them to cope with it. Chronic blushing and the distress associated with it, seem to occur without any clearly defined social embarrassment. The initial trigger to blushing is often about simply being in a social situation. Some people feel embarrassed which encourages and perpetuates blushing. This becomes a vicious circle where people have cyclical thoughts, such as 'I am blushing, others have noticed and must think I am embarrassed, I feel embarrassed and I am blushing more' (See Edelmann, 1990, for further details). Therefore, helping people to feel more comfortable in social situations will often break this cycle and allow a different pattern of behaviour to run.

Helping people to feel more comfortable in social situations can be achieved successfully using hypnotherapy in a number of ways. Ego-strengthening and relaxation techniques will be really important in the initial stages of therapy as the client needs to feel confident that they can overcome their fears and anxiety before launching into actually doing it. Once the client feels they have the necessary resources to help them to feel more confident and relaxed around people, the therapist can help the client to mentally rehearse being in social situations and use their newfound resources to manage any uneasiness and/or negative thoughts and emotions. 

Using hypnotherapy, we can also revisit earlier events in the client’s life that may have significantly contributed to their social anxiety and fear. Using techniques that age regress the client back in time, we can help to restructure, aspects of their life to enable them to move on more positively in the future.

Having techniques to manage the blushing when it occurs will enable the client to break the vicious circle. If the client can learn some simple relaxation and breathing techniques, this should also help. These relaxed and/or confident feelings can be anchored in the therapy room and enable the client to return to this state if they anticipate blushing, or once it has begun, to stop it in its tracks.

The hypnotherapist will also provide suggestions and use techniques for not being fearful or anxious around people. Reframes can be used to suggest e.g., how nice it is that their warmth as a person can show through! And that their unconscious mind is so keen to demonstrate this warmth and confidence in presenting it to the world; rather than stopping the blushing. This is one outcome for therapy that encourages 'accommodation’ of the problem rather than wishing it away or being fearful of it.



Drummond, P.D., Camacho, L., Formentin, N., Heffernan, T.D., Williams, F. and Zekas, T.E. (2003) 'The impact of verbal feedback about blushing on social discomfort and facial blood flow during embarrassing tasks.' Behaviour Research and Therapy, 41: 413–425.

Edelmann, R. (1990) Coping with Blushing. London: Sheldon Press. 

Mulkens, S., Bogels, S.M., de Jong, P.J. and Louwers, J. (2001) 'Fear of blushing: Effects of task concentration training versus exposure in vivo on fear and physiology.' Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 15: 413–432.

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