Gymnophobia (fear of nudity): causes, symptoms and treatment

The nakedness of the human body has been the subject of ethical and moral debates for centuries. While some people regard it as a natural state of the person, others perceive a naked human body as something ordinary or vulgar, which should not be exposed to the sight of others.

When this aversion to the perception of a naked person goes beyond feelings of boredom or tyranny and becomes exaggerated fear or fear, we may be faced with a case of gymnophobia.

    What is gymnophobia?

    Gymphobia, also known as nudophobia, is a specific type of phobia falls under the classification of anxiety disorders. In the case of this particular phobia, the person experiences a pathological fear of nudity of both his own and others.

    This fear, which is experienced as an exaggerated, persistent and irrational feeling, is presented in those who experience a pathological aversion to the possibility of being seen naked or seeing other people, even in contexts where nudity is something natural and acceptable, such as the locker room in a sports hall.

    One of the most distinguishing features of people like gymnophobia is that in some cases the anxiety reaction does not appear widely in all people, but is limited to a small group of the population.

    Likewise, through the case study, it was found that in many of them, gymnophobic patients feel inferior to their own body, Which remains underlying the development of the phobia.

    These people tend to compare their bodies with those that appear in the media and publications, in which the ideals or canons of beauty are so extremely distorted that certain natural human traits are considered imperfections, which leads the person to experience high levels of anxiety and frustration.

    This pathological terror of seeing a naked body, including one’s own, can lead to great interference in the most intimate planes of the person, who may refuse to maintain physical or sexual contact, due to the anguish caused by the idea of ​​having to be. naked in front of someone and that other person is in the same state of nudity.

    Likewise, gymnophobia at 1:00 a.m. will avoid encountering situations that involve having to undress, such as taking a shower in a locker room with more people or even going to certain medical examinations.

    Characteristics of a phobic fear

    As mentioned above, gymnophobia is an anxiety disorder, so the fear experienced in it is significantly different from a normative or adaptive fear.

    The main characteristics that distinguish a pathological fear from a fear considered normal are:

    • Feeling of fear that is excessive and disproportionate to the actual threat posed by the situation or the phobic stimulus
    • It is irrational, so the person is not able to find a reasonable explanation for their reaction
    • It is uncontrollable, so the person is unable to control the sensations they are feeling
    • Generates avoidance and evasion behaviors
    • Even if it only appears in the face of the dreaded situation, this fear is constant through time and situations.

    Symptoms of fear of nudity

    Although the main symptom of gymnophobia is the experience of great fear of the appearance of the dreaded stimulus, in this case nudity, there are many other symptoms inherent in the anxiety reaction experienced by the person.

    These symptoms do not necessarily have to appear the same in all people with gymnophobia. However, these symptoms can be classified into three different categories, depending on whether they correspond to physical, cognitive or behavioral symptoms.

    1. Physical symptoms

    The first symptoms that a person consciously perceives when dealing with the phobic stimulus are the physical symptoms. These are due to an overactive nervous system which causes all kinds of changes and alterations in the body:

    • Increased heart rate
    • Increased respiratory rate
    • palpitations
    • Feel short of breath
    • muscle stiffness
    • Increased sweating
    • Headache

    • Stomach problems such as abdominal pain and / or diarrhea
    • Nausea and / or vomiting
    • Feeling dizzy or dizzy
    • Fainting and loss of consciousness

    2. Cognitive symptoms

    The physical symptoms of gymnophobia are always accompanied, in turn, by a series of cognitive symptoms that manifest as distorted and irrational thoughts on human nudity.

    These ideas are characterized by being irrational and intrusive and, moreover, can be accompanied by mental images of catastrophic content in relation to the possible dangers or threats of the phobic stimulus.

    3. Behavioral symptoms

    As is often the case with specific phobias, the person’s own symptoms end up interfering with or conditioning their own patterns of behavior. These tend to modify his behavior in daily life, generating two types of responses considered to be behavioral symptoms: avoidance behaviors and escape behaviors.

    By avoidant behaviors, we mean all the behaviors that the gymnophobic person adopts to avoid the feared situation or stimulus. For example, avoid entering a gym locker room.

    However, escape behaviors arise when the subject has not been able to cope with the object of the phobia, so perform all possible acts or behaviors that allow them to escape the situation as quickly as possible. .

    the causes

    At the beginning of the article, it was commented that the basis of gymnophobia can be linked to a feeling of inferiority towards the body itself, which has been improved or developed into a phobia.

    However, there are many other factors that can play a particular role in the development of a phobia, the most common being highly traumatic or emotional experiences or experiences, in which nudity has played a more or less role. relevant.

    While it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint the specific source of a phobia, there are a number of mechanisms or risk factors that can promote it. These are:

    • genetic elements
    • personality

    • cognitive styles
    • direct packaging
    • proxy learning


    Fortunately, There are a number of very effective treatments which, regardless of the severity of the phobiaThey can help decrease a person’s symptoms and allow them to have a normal pace and lifestyle.

    In the case of gymnophobia and any type of specific phobia, the most effective type of intervention is cognitive behavioral therapy; in which, in addition to cognitive restructuring to remove distorted thoughts, live exposure or systematic desensitization (DS) techniques are performed.

    In this type of technique, the patient is gradually exposed to situations related to the phobia, either directly or by imagination. Along with this, training in relaxation techniques is carried out which can decrease the level of physical symptoms of anxiety.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Bourne, Edmund (2005). The workbook on anxiety and phobia, 4th ed. New publications from Harbinger.
    • Wolpe, Joseph (1958). Psychotherapy for reciprocal inhibition. Stanford University Press.

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