Myths About Blushing and Social Anxiety Disorder

Blushing can be a part of social anxiety disorder.
People with social anxiety don't always blush.. Getty / Ann Boyajian

Blushing is a normal physiological response that results in the face, neck and/or chest becoming red. However, it can also be a source of misunderstanding. Below are five myths about blushing that have persisted.

Myth #1: Blushing Always Signals Embarrassment

Blushing may result from strong emotions such as embarrassment, anger or excitement. However, it may also be linked to medical problems like carcinoid syndrome, fever, menopause, and rosacea, medications used to treat diabetes and high cholesterol, and other triggers such as alcohol, hot or spicy foods, and quick changes in temperature.

Myth #2: If You Try Harder Enough, You Can Stop Blushing

When you blush, the blood vessels in your face widen, allowing more blood to pass through to the skin. The tiny muscles in your blood vessels usually keep the vessels slightly squeezed, but during a blushing episode, nerves in your body send signals to relax these muscles.

Because this action is automatic, it is nearly impossible to stop once it has begun. In fact, the harder you try to stop blushing, the redder you will usually get.

Myth #3: All People with Social Anxiety Disorder Blush

Blushing is a symptom of social anxiety disorder (SAD); however, not all people who have SAD have problems with blushing. In addition, not all people who blush have SAD.

However, for those with SAD who have problems with blushing, reddening of the face usually happens daily, if not hourly. When a person with SAD blushes, it usually goes along with a bunch of negative automatic thoughts, such as "Everyone is noticing how red I am" or "Everyone thinks that I'm weird." Some people with SAD blush when they are put on the spot, made the center of attention, or caught off guard in a social situation.

Myth #4: Blushing Cannot Be Controlled

In fact, a number of treatments are available for problems with blushing.

If your blushing goes along with other physical symptoms or appears along with a medical problem, a medical cause is likely and a medical doctor can offer the best course of treatment.

When blushing is a symptom of SAD, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) directed at the underlying anxiety that maintains blushing is a good treatment option.

Through CBT you will learn how to think, act and feel differently, which in turn will have a positive impact on your problems with blushing. Another treatment option that can help at the same time is medication to treat SAD.

Above all else, remember that blushing can become a vicious cycle. If you choose not to make a big deal about your red face, you will probably blush much less than when you actively try to prevent it from happening.


Social Anxiety Institute. Blushing: A symptom of social anxiety. Accessed December 23, 2015.

Pelissolo A, Moukheiber A. Open-label treatment with escitalopram in patients with social anxiety disorder and fear of blushing. J Clin Psychopharmacol 2013;33:695-8. doi: 10.1097/JCP.0b013e31829a878b. Accessed December 23, 2015.

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