Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Can a fear of blushing be cured in a weekend?

You may have heard of weekend workshops in creative writing or first aid but what about a weekend course to reduce your fear of blushing? Could such a brief, intensive intervention help people for whom a dread of turning red ruins their social lives and undermines their success at work? According to a new, preliminary study - the answer is a tentative Yes.

Samia Chaker and colleagues recruited through adverts in a German pharmacy magazine 27 people with social phobia, and in particular a fear of blushing. The weekend course began on a Friday at 2pm and ran until 9pm the following evening.

The focus was on 'task concentration training'. Research has shown that a fear of blushing develops through and is worsened by excess focus on the self. A person feels self-conscious, they redden, they feel the warmth in their cheeks and the cycle of self-focus is perpetuated. Through reading stories, role-playing and watching themselves on video, the participants practiced turning their focus away from themselves and to the task at hand - be that the words of a conversational partner or the reading of a story. The participants were also given advice on how to practice re-directing their attention over the coming six weeks, first in non-threatening situations and then in more difficult social contexts.

At the end of the weekend compared with at baseline, 37 per cent of participants showed clinically significant improvement in their fear of blushing. By six month follow-up this had risen to 56 per cent of the sample. Improvements were greater in those who said they had practiced re-focusing their attention in difficult situations in the weeks following the weekend workshop.

The results are only preliminary: the lack of a control group is a major limitation as is the inability to tease out the most important parts of the intervention. However, feedback from the participants showed the course to have been well-received and worthwhile of future investigation. 'The time-efficient nature of such an intensive treatment could hold great appeal and practicality for working professionals who are short on time, those who prefer a less "therapy-like" experience, or individuals with geographic restrictions,' the researchers said.

ResearchBlogging.orgChaker S, Hofmann SG, & Hoyer J (2010). Can a one-weekend group therapy reduce fear of blushing? Results of an open trial. Anxiety, stress, and coping, 23 (3), 303-18 PMID: 19557558

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

Earlier on the Digest: Thinking that you're blushing makes you blush even more.

The puzzle of blushing (open access article in The Psychologist).

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