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Old 03-25-2020, 12:12 PM   #1
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Default Does this phobia apply to me?

I read about this fear around the web and I noticed that altough it does not seem to be popular I might have it. It is called "gymnophobia". Let me explain.

I noticed, since I was a teenager, that I felt anxious when I was changing clothes. That every time I do not have any or very little clothes on me someone might see me. The same feeling I experience when I am taking a bath or a shower. I feel that I need to put on my clothes on as fast as possible or I will face a horrible humiliation. The feeling of being without clothes makes me extremely anxious. I am not able to think straight in such situations and I feel like I about to have a panic attack.

I read that "gymnophobia" refers to an actual fear of nudity. However I am not 100% sure if it applies to me. This is because I am not afraid to be naked in general. I am only afraid of being seen naked by... opposite gender. I am a man who is over thirty years old and I do not care about being naked as long as I am surrounded only by other males. However I fear that any minute a woman may enter such place and witness my naked body.

This fear manifested many times in my life. Let me present you some examples:
  • When I was on a summer camp I refused to shower and instead washed myself using a sink. I did not have to undress, I was just putting a wet sponge in my pyjamas to clean the private parts. This was because many female camp staff members where shamelessly entering shower rooms and I did not want to be caught by them.
  • When I was about twenty years old I wanted to check up my reproductive organs. Nothing urgent, everything turned out to be fine eventually. However in my country if you want to visit a urologist or an andrologist you need a referral from your family physician (I think the English equivalent is General Practitioner). This allows patients to gain access to specialized physicians (women do not need such document if they want to visit gynecologist). My family physician was a woman in her fifties. Unfortunately she did not want to give me a refferal without, you guessed, seeing me naked. Long story short, after my check up I left the doctor's office all sweaty, shaking, pale and felt like I was about to cry. The urologist who I visited after was a man and I did not have such negative feelings after the check up.
  • A friend of mine invited me to visit a gym with him. After our work out he wanted me to visit a sauna with him. I do not like heat in general and I initially refused. However, he convinced me to visit it anyway since I had never visited one before. There were no dressing booths outside the sauna so I had to go through all of the gym in only my towel. I could already feel my anxiety level skyrocketing. After I entered the sauna room I felt that I will not be able to withstand the heat inside and I immedietly left. I think my mind was clouded because of the fear and uncomfortable feeling caused by the sauna's heat but I went to nearby showers. They were at the end of the small corridor. I left my towel at the nearby stand and I turned on the shower. I heard female voices outside. This was one of the momements where I think I had a real panic attack. I had trouble breathing and felt I was going to faint. I do not remember how long was I in the showers. When I stopped hearing women's noises I grabbed my towel and walked as fast as I could to the locker rooms. I have not visited any sauna related places again.
  • When I was on a walk in a forest unfortunately I felt an urge to relieve myself. When I finished I noticed that on a small hill nearby there was a woman walking her dog. She stood there staring at me like I was a freak of nature. I quickly broke the eye contact and again, walked away as fast as I could. Scared to the bones.
  • I refuse to buy trousers in malls and clothes stores since I would have to try them on to be sure they fit. Otherwise shop have the right to refuse their return. This is why I would rather order them online. Even if they do not fit I have a right to return them in fourteen days with full refund.
  • Bringing extra clothes on trips which most likely I will never wear. However, bringing an extra pair of trousers just makes me feel safe. They could tear or go missing during a long trip.
  • I do not visit swimmming pools. Never. Despite the fact that I love swimming. Mothers with small children and female pool staff members like to enter male locker rooms just like that. This is a no from me.
  • I feel very uncomfortable when I see in a movie or a TV show a character who is being laughed at for being nude (Just as a side note. Did you notice that if such scene has a child character in it, it is always a boy? Maybe that is just me). Even this "triggers" my phobia and I quickly stop watching.

What suprises me that many people do not feel like that. I even heard complaints that some people walk around naked where they should not be. And not only they are not embarassed but also become defensive and say that they have a right to be naked in such place. I say that I admire they courage, since I will never be couragous enough to peform such feat.

What exactly I am afraid of you may ask. Humiliation, judgement, gossips, torment. I am afraid to the point that if someone pulled out a knife on me and ordered me to give him/her my clothes, I would most likely choose death. Yes, I realize that this is strange. However, I am sure that I am not the only person with such fear. I read that prisoners and some time ago hospital patients were being stripped naked as means of control. Seeing another person naked gave staff members feeling of authority especially if it was done by a member of opposite gender. Both humiliated prisoners and patients were more likely to obey orders. For me it feels like a nightmare to be put in such situtation. If I was exposed to such treatment this would have surely invoked suicidal thoughts in me.

Some people say that in order to conquer our fears we need to face it. I hope you understand that walking naked around random women is out of the question for obvious reasons. From where this fear came from? I am not sure. Nudity was not something present in my family and I was always thaught to be modest. Maybe this is partially why I am so afraid to be seen in my "birthday suit".

What do you guys think? Have you had similar experiences? Do you have any advice how to conuter this issue?
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Old 03-26-2020, 05:02 PM   #2
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Smile Re: Does this phobia apply to me?

Thanks for sharing this concern. I can't say as I have had similar experiences. I'm a very private person & would certainly prefer not to be seen naked by either women or men. But if I was, while I would certainly experience some embarrassment, it would not rise to the level you describe.

I'm not a mental health professional. So I can't offer anything in the way of an authoritative analysis regarding what you're experiencing. However my personal non-professional thought would be that what you are struggling with might be the type of thing that is sometimes treated with what is called Exposure & Response Prevention therapy (ERP). ERP is, as I understand it, the recommended mode of treatment for what is referred to as pure OCD. Here are links to 4 articles on the subject of ERP, from Psych Central's archives:

ERP Therapy: A Good Choice for Treating OCD

Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy for OCD

Choosing Exposure Response Prevention Therapy

Anxiety and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) Therapy

It is very important, as I understand it, to receive ERP therapy treatment from a therapist who is trained, skilled & experienced in providing ERP therapy. My best wishes to you.
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Old 03-27-2020, 02:48 AM   #3
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Default Re: Does this phobia apply to me?

Thank you Skeezyks.
Take every chance to make yourself better. Do not do it for others, but for your very own being.
Learn new skills and train your mind. With every new piece of knowledge you become a better person.
Stop telling yourself you are not worth it, because you are. Stop telling yourself you can not do it, because you can.
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