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Gymnophobia

Fear of Nudity

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Updated December 05, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Gymnophobia, or the fear of nudity, is a highly personalized phobia. Some people with this fear are afraid only of being naked in public, such as communal showers or changing rooms. Others fear being naked alone as well. Many people with gymnophobia are unable to participate in sexual activities, and may develop a more generalized fear of sex. In extreme cases, this fear can even lead to a phobia of bathing or showering. Some people are comfortable with their own nakedness, but fear the nudity of others.

Gymnophobia may have many different causes. Those who have been through a sexual trauma are at increased risk for the phobia, as are those who were raised in a culture or religion that frowns on nudity. Children and young teens may develop this fear if they are bullied or shamed, or if their bodies develop more or less rapidly than those of their peers.

Gymnophobia is sometimes related to other phobias, such as the fear of vulnerability or the fear of intimacy. It may also be linked to body dysmorphic disorder, social anxiety, and other conditions that cause people to be unusually critical of themselves. Those who have surgical scars or other disfigurements may also be at an increased risk for developing gymnophobia.

Coping With Gymnophobia

Many people with gymnophobia find that simple adjustments help them to keep their fears at bay. For example, they may refuse to shop in stores that have communal dressing rooms, skip the shower after a workout, and have sex with the lights off. Over time, though, the fear can worsen, and you may find yourself altering an increasingly long list of activities in order to prevent the fear.

Gymnophobia, like all phobias, responds well to a variety of treatment methods. Depending on your therapist's school of thought, you may be encouraged to probe your past to determine the root cause of your fear. Or you may simply learn techniques for overcoming your current fearful thoughts. Whichever path you take, overcoming gymnophobia takes time and effort, but the rewards are well worth the trouble.

Source:

American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

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