Embarrassing Flushing Triggered by Anxiety

Flushing is a natural reaction to embarrassment, but when it happens excessively, it can hold you back – both personally and professionally. It may be hard to socialize or put yourself out there at work when you’re consumed with worry about suddenly turning red. If you suffer from anxiety, you might blush at the slightest hint of nervousness so you avoid potential triggers, even if that means isolation and lost opportunities. If this happens to you, you’ll need to find the root cause and get treatment for your anxiety, according to The Doctors.

Embarrassment Feeds the Problem

Flushing manifests itself with redness on the cheeks that can spread to the whole face, and even to your neck and chest. Typically it goes away quickly, but The Doctors say that, in the worst cases, people with anxiety disorders can break out into a prominent splotchy rash that may last up to half an hour. Embarrassment over this physical manifestation makes the person even more anxious, making the problem even more severe.

Lasers and topical creams are temporary solutions that work physically by restricting the blood vessels. For example, a recent study showed that topical ibuprofen cream inhibits flushing caused by embarrassment. However, these remedies stop the physical process but not the emotional causes behind the flushing. The problem isn’t truly solved unless you deal with your anxiety, too.

Social Anxiety is a Common Trigger

Anxiety disorders come in many forms, but social anxiety disorder is a common trigger for flushing because it’s triggered by discomfort in social situations like being in a meeting at work or out at a party with friends. Those with the disorder feel nervous when they’re around other people because they fear embarrassing themselves. Turning red when nervous escalates the problem because flushing puts emotions on display for everyone, and sometimes even makes the individual the center of attention. That attention is a common fear of those with social anxiety who try to keep a low profile, and so it  may make the problem even worse.

Studies show that even people without anxiety disorders feel self-conscious when they blush. Even if they’re not flushed, you can make them blush simply by telling them that they’re doing it already.

Therapy Holds the Key

If you blush easily because of anxiety disorder, treating it with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) stops your fear and embarrassment at the root, thus removing the emotional cause for the physical act of flushing. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), CBT teaches you to challenge unhealthy thought patterns and replace them with new ones. For example, in therapy you’ll learn that you’re likely overreacting because flushing really doesn’t have as much impact on others’ opinions of us as we believe it may, according to the BBC. You’ll learn to evaluate situations more accurately and replace your fear and nervousness with more effective feelings.

The ADAA says that other types of therapy can help with social anxiety, and thus help solve your flushing problem, too. For example, exposure therapy helps you get comfortable with situations that cause you fear. When your comfort level increases and you no longer worry about embarrassing yourself or having others pay attention to you, the flushing naturally stops. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) teaches you to accept uncomfortable situations, including blushing, without overreacting to them.

Sometimes therapy isn’t enough to lessen your anxiety to the point of reducing symptoms like flushing. In these cases, you may be prescribed anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication. The drugs may help you function more effectively at work and in social situations while you work on the core issues in therapy.