Archive for February 6, 2014

The Act of Blushing: Can it be Stopped?

Everyone does it, though some more than others.  It is blushing and an estimated 5% to 7% of people suffer from it on a chronic basis.  Let’s look at what causes a person to blush, how it can impact someone’s life, and how to stop blushing.

​    Blushing is completely natural.  Most often it occurs when a person is the object of unsolicited social attention.  Embarrassment due to meeting someone new, saying something inappropriate, receiving compliments, and anger are frequent causes.  Blushing is controlled by the system that controls your fight-or-flight response. You experience a release of adrenaline causing blood vessels to dilate (referred to as vasodilation), to improve oxygen delivery and blood flow throughout the body.  The veins in your face are signaled by adenylyl cyclase, a chemical transmitter, to permit the adrenaline through.  As the veins dilate, more blood is allowed to flow, causing a reddish tint to your face.  In simple terms, blushing is the result of excess blood flow in your cheeks.

​     While blushing occasionally does not typically have a tremendous effect on a person’s everyday life; individuals that experience it on a chronic basis may begin to suffer physically and psychologically.  They frequently develop bright red cheeks for no apparent reason, which can lead to a variety of issues. Many people associate blushing with being unconfident, shy, lying, or hiding something.  As a result, a chronic sufferer may be mildly or extensively teased by peers.  They may begin to withdraw from social activities, become depressed, and frustrated.  There are instances when a sufferer has developed suicidal thoughts.  Simply put, the consequences have the potential to be devastating.

​    Although it is a natural occurrence, it is possible to stop blushing using psychological techniques.  Overcoming social anxiety is the first step in this process.  There are ways to work toward this including cognitive therapy and hypnosis.

•Cognitive behavioral therapy (often called CBT) employs the use of a therapist to help the sufferer change or redirect their thoughts that most often results in blushing, learn breathing techniques to help relieve anxiety, and occasionally, the use of hypnotherapy.  Additionally, a physician may be consulted to prescribe medications to fight feelings of anxiety and fear.  Most often, these medications are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) such as Wellbutrin, Celexa, Prozac, and many more.

•Hypnotherapy or hypnosis accesses a person’s unconscious mind to determine the root cause of the problem and to teach ways to control it by staying calm and more relaxed.  Additionally, it can help a sufferer increase their self-confidence and decrease sensitivity in scenarios that trigger blushing.

•If blushing has already started, place a compress filled with cold water on your cheeks.  This will cause the blood vessels to constrict decreasing the blood flow through your cheeks.

•There are cosmetic and medical procedures that can be done, but they should be used as a last resort.  Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS) is a surgical procedure in which several of the nerves that cause the blood vessels in the face to dilate are cut.  This method also decreases the amount of sweating a person does.  As with any surgery, there are risks involved that should be carefully examined prior to having it done.  It does, however, have a 80% to 90% success rate.