Blushing is the reddening of the face, ears, neck and often the upper part of the chest, followed by a feeling of heat and tingling.
Blushing is an unconscious, physical reaction that is caused by certain situations, and is a perfectly normal bodily reaction. Some people believe blushing is naturally attractive as individuals are likely to show their true emotions! However, for many people blushing can cause discomfort and distress as they worry about when and where they may blush. The embarrassment of blushing can become so severe for those who are extremely anxious in social situations that the sufferer avoids social contact (known as social anxiety).
The problem with blushing
For many people, blushing can be traced back to a particular event (e.g. being put on the spot in front of a class full of people) and this can lead to a vicious circle of being embarrassed about the blushing and anticipating it happening again. Becoming tense in similar situations and worrying about blushing often makes it more likely that it will happen again. This is because our brain automates patterns of thinking, and for individuals who blush excessively, their brain has often automated worrying about blushing.
Trying not to worry about blushing also doesn’t help the situation as our brains can’t not think about something we’re trying not to think about. For example if you tell yourself not to think of a white rabbit, we immediately picture a white rabbit in our mind! So if we tell ourselves not to worry about blushing, we immediately think about blushing. Again, our brain automates this pattern of thinking.
Causes of blushing
Blushing is caused by the widening of the tiny muscles in our blood vessels under the skin. Normally these muscles are partly contracted giving us our natural complexion. If these muscles are fully contracted, the blood vessels are closed and less blood can pass through them, which causes the skin to become pale. On the other end of the scale, if these muscles are relaxed and widened, more blood than normal can pass through, causing the skin to become redder.
These tiny muscles are controlled by our autonomic nervous system which can be affected by a number of factors, including heat, illness or our emotions. If we are emotionally sensitive or our autonomic nervous system is working too hard, blushing may be more common. Therefore emotions such as embarrassment, guilt, nervousness or shame can often cause blushing.
Treatment for blushing
Most people who blush try to hide it and worry in advance about how they are going to deal with a certain situation. However this often makes it worse. Some people suffering from blushing have been able to break this vicious cycle by simply not trying to hide it and announcing when they are about to blush to others. The more they accept that part of them, the more likely it won’t happen! Distraction exercises and deep breathing can also be ways to help manage the blushing.
Hypnotherapy can help control blushing by accessing an individual’s unconscious mind to discover the root cause of the problem and help the individual to learn how to deal with it in a calmer, more relaxed way. By reframing the negative thought processes, an individual can often feel more comfortable in situations that would usually cause them to blush. Hypnotherapy can also help to increase self-confidence and self-esteem and reduce sensitivity to situations that trigger blushing.
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