Gymnophobia or the fear of nudity explained.

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Gymnophobia – the fear of nudity is a very personalized fear. Some people suffering from this fear are afraid of public nudity like in communal changing rooms or showers. It makes them feel vulnerable and exposed. On the other hand there are also people who are afraid of nudity in front of their partners and in some cases people are even afraid when they are alone.

It differs from person to person, in some extreme cases people are afraid to take showers. There are also some people who are comfortable with their own nudity but are afraid of the nudity of other people. Being naked might make people feel unsafe and unprotected.

What causes Gymnophobia?

Photo by GerhardLipold 

Gymnophobia can be caused by various reasons. It is a medically recognized fear, it is not that the
person isn’t comfortable with their own body, there can be many other reasons for their fear. One of the major reasons is trauma, if a person has faced sexual trauma in the past then they are at more risk with this fear. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) can be a major reason for this phobia because nudity might become a trigger for them​1​.

It can also be caused if a person is brought up in a very conservative or religious household and is taught that nudity is not okay. Children or teens may also develop this fear if they are body shamed or bullied it might make them feel uncomfortable and vulnerable about their own body. Gymnophobia can be caused because of other mental health problems; sometimes it is related to anxiety or depression.

The fear of intimacy or vulnerability can also be a reason for gymnophobia. It could also be because of body dysmorphic disorder and social anxiety. Having surgical scars or stretch marks can make a person feel more vulnerable towards their body this could also develop into gymnophobia.

What are the symptoms of gymnophobia?

It is not difficult to diagnose gymnophobia, the symptoms are similar to that of any other phobia. They are usually automatic or uncontrollable symptoms which takeover a person’s thoughts which leads them to take extreme measures to avoid the situation they fear.

The symptoms might include:
1. Panic attack
2. Breathlessness
3. Avoiding communal showers or changing rooms
4. Unable to relax
5. Sweating more than usually
6. Feeling dizzy
7. Palpitation

Over time people accept the symptoms and it becomes normal for them. People start believing they have learnt to live with it”.

How to overcome gymnophobia?

Many people with gymnophobia begin by adjusting their schedule to avoid situations where they might have to face the situation they fear, such as shopping or going to gyms with communal changing rooms or showers. Mild changes or adjustments are fine, but if a person’s entire schedule is disturbed or they are unable to perform their everyday activities, it is a problem.

The best way to cope with any fear is going to therapy. Therapy will help you deal with the fear in a healthy way. Since, gymnophobia is a very personal phobia people feel uncomfortable to open up about it so talking to a therapist will be very helpful. Therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and BWRT (Brain Working Recursive Therapy) tend to regard the symptoms of Gymnophobia as being due to ‘unhelpful thinking styles’ or patterns of thinking that directly ‘create’ the ‘feelings’ of anxiety and stress when encountering the phobic object or situation. These types of therapy are frequently referred to as “brief” or “directive” therapies since they tend to focus on thinking that occurs “now” rather than as a result of a “past event,” and they usually only take 4 to 10 sessions depending on the “severity” of your phobia​2​.

Affirming yourself about the things you like in your body could also be a great start. Clinical hypnotherapy can also assist patients in identifying and using many of their own inner strengths and resources to battle Gymnophobia-related issues​2​. You don’t need to force yourself to face the fear just start slow and take baby steps and you’ll start noticing big changes with time.

Article sources:

  1. 1.
    Fritscher L. Coping With Gymnophobia in Your Life Fear of Nudity.
  2. 2.
    Gymnophobia Therapy.

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