Gymnophobia is an irrational fear of nudity. Sufferers tend to worry about seeing others naked, others seeing them naked, or a combination of the two.
It's very common for people with this specific phobia to not participate in any sexual activities and romantic relationships.
If gymnophobia is left untreated it can developed into a number of other phobias that involved nakedness. Some of which include Genophobia (fear of sex) and Ablutophobia (fear of bathing).
Persons suffering from this phobia will typically experience a very high level of anxiety when they see someone naked or even seeing themselves naked in the mirror. Some may even experience a full blow anxiety attack. These specific symptoms include:
Trembling / Shaking
Racing Heart Rate
Impeding Sense of Doom or They Are Going To Die
Besides the physical symptoms exerted by Gymnophobia suffers, there are avoidance symptoms as well. These include going out of their way to avoid any situation where nudity may occur. For example, avoiding changing rooms, bathrooms, group showers, and even the beach.
Some may even avoid placing mirrors in their bedrooms or bathrooms so they don't see themselves without any clothes on. It's very common for these phobia sufferers to avoid any sort of romantic relationship for fear that it will lead to the other person wanting to engage in sexual activities that involved nudity.
If you are going out of your way to avoid your fear of seeing others naked or even yourself naked it's likely that you have developed this phobia. You know that what you are doing is irrational, but you are so used to avoiding your fear you are taking these avoidance steps without really noticing you are doing it.
Many Gymnophobia suffers conclude that being naked makes them feel unprotected. In some cases, they even feel physically inferior to those around them. As with the majority of phobias, there are three main groups of causes. Your phobia stemmed from one of these experiences. Let's take a look at what they are.
This is the most prominent cause of Gymnophobia. The sufferer faced a traumatic event in their past, typically in childhood, that convinced their brain to associate nakedness with danger. For example, while in the changing room at the school gym the other students laughed at the sufferer when they were naked. Now they associate their own nakedness with fear of being ridiculed and judged. Another common traumatic event is sexual assault, where the sufferer was forced into participating in sexual activities that involved nudity.
This is when the sufferer saw a traumatic event happen to someone else, and now applies that connection between nudity and danger. For example, your friend at school was laughed at by other students when they were naked in the locker room shower. Even though the traumatic event didn't happen to you, it still makes your brain think that nudity is connected with judgment and ridicule.
Unlike the other two, this experience doesn't involved a traumatic event. Rather the sufferer developed their fear of nakedness due to informational cues around them. There are numerous sources of information that people get throughout their life.
For example, you watched a movie or television show where someone was ridiculed while naked. You may even have experienced parental cues, where your parents preached that nudity was bad and you should not be around others who are naked. These informational outlets start to make your brain associated nudity with being bad or dangerous.
All phobias are typically treated in three general ways. Let's take a look at each.
In Vivo Therapy
This is also referred to as Exposure Therapy. This involves a therapist who will work with you by showing you images or even videos of your stimuli, in this case nudity. It's proven that through repeat exposure to the stimuli the mind starts to overpower the fear. This starts to decrease the anxiety level of the sufferer until they eventually don't have an anxiety when faced with their stimuli.
Systematic Desensitization Therapy
This is somewhat similar to In Vivo Therapy as you endure stimuli exposure, but it varies in the fact of the type of exposure you are using. With Systematic Desensitization Therapy instead of physical stimuli, you are using your imagination. You will be instructed to visualize a situation involving nudity that makes you uncomfortable. As you describe your visualization your therapist will coach you with relaxation and breathing exercises to decrease the amount of anxiety you feel.
This is one of the more popular forms of treatment, as it's affordable and the sufferer doesn't have to divulge their fears with others. These come in the forms of books, audio, and program courses that help you better understand your phobia, it's cause, and step-by-step instructions on how to overcome it.