Blushing 

Introduction 

Blushing is the involuntary reddening of the face usually triggered by emotions such as embarrassment or stress.

Other areas of the body such as the neck, ears and upper chest can also be affected. As well as causing redness, blushing can sometimes make the affected area feel hot.

Most people will find themselves blushing from time to time and it's not usually viewed as a cause for concern.

What causes blushing?

'Normal' blushing happens when a strong emotional response stimulates the nervous system to increase the flow of blood into the skin of the face.

Abnormal (severe or frequent) blushing can have both psychological and physical causes.

Psychological causes include:

  • social anxiety disorder – a fear of social situations that involve interaction with other people; often linked to a fear that they will embarrass themselves in front of others
  • general anxiety disorder – where a person is repeatedly bothered by feelings of anxiety, worry and dread

Physical causes include:

  • rosacea – a common skin condition that affects the face
  • certain medications, such as tamoxifen used to treat breast cancer

Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) is often associated with blushing, although it is not a direct cause.

Read more about the causes of blushing.

When to seek medical advice

A person may require treatment if:

  • they develop a fear of blushing that causes them to avoid certain situations and interacting with other people, and begins to have a negative impact on their quality of life
  • they experience frequent blushing that does not seem linked to any emotional trigger

Treatment

The treatment for blushing will depend on the underlying cause.

If it is thought that the underlying cause is psychological, such as an irrational fear (phobia), then a talking treatment called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can often be effective.

Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can also help relieve any associated feelings of anxiety and worry.

If the underlying cause is physical, such as rosacea, you may be advised to avoid common triggers such as stress, prolonged exposure to sunlight and spicy foods.

A surgical procedure called endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS) is often used to treat excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) when it occurs with blushing. However, ETS is usually only recommended if more conventional treatments, such as psychological therapies, have not worked.

Read more about the treatment of blushing.

Page last reviewed: 11/06/2012

Next review due: 11/06/2014

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Comments

The 6 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Victoria555 said on 30 December 2013

Believe me I've been there. I know the feeling. However it's OK to blush. Honestly, it is OK. Life got better for me when I was able to accept it for what it is. Just breath deep, stand tall and Let it be. Enjoy the best things in life!

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Lou1305 said on 08 November 2013

Dear Maz35, I am 32 years old and I used to suffer terribly with this condition, almost to the point of severe depression. I had hypnotherapy with a doctor in Cockfosters and although expensive anything was better than the suffering. That was a good five years ago and I am pleased to say that until recently I have been cured and very successful and confident. Unfortunately in recent times, something has triggered it and slowly seems to have returned. There is hope out there and I am confident I will get rid of it but also want to do it quick as I too am in the process of wanting to go to university for promotion in my work industry.
I wish you all the best with sorting this issue out. I have seen an advert for a tablet called eredicane which I am thinking of trying as hypnotherapy is not an avenue I can afford at present. Please research this product as I am not sure of effects yet. Perhaps NHS can help, is it safe?

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Maz35 said on 16 May 2013

I'm now 35 and for years I've suffered from severe blushing to the point someone could just ask me for directions and my face and chest will go scarlet,I'm finding it increasingly depressing and feel its holding me back from achieving my dream of becoming a nurse as there is no way I could be that much in the public eye with my face going bright red for most of the time no reason,has anyone here had any treatment that has worked for them and stopped the blushing be greatful for any info as I need to get this sorted before I waste anymore of my time in the shadow to what a want to do

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kenco33 said on 02 January 2013

to all who reads this article about blushing! i would strongly advise anyone reading this article on nhs choices who are considering having the ETS surgery for blushing to not have the operation. After having the operation myself in the UK in 2007 it has been rather life changing for the worse and has effected my health badly. I feel it made my redness worse i also suffer with severe headaches, painfully dry eyes, regular tingling sensations in my hands and feet, odd sensations over my head and body, the inablity to cool myself down at times, severe burning of my skin in the mild sun. I really do strongly feel that the operation is rather corrupt and surgeons sell this procedure as a quick fix but unfortunately can not assess or predict the outcome in patients after the operation. As much as i am here and well to a degree after this operation at times the operations side effects have been very hard to bare. Please do not believe all the false statstics on the surgeons website and do not have the operation. Even though the ETS operation is detailed on many websites including this NHS one it really doesnt mean it is the answer. Please just google the operation and you will see how so many people around the world are highly dissatisfied and whose life has been greatly effected by the procedure.

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aitchkay said on 03 November 2012

Im pleased to read that you are seeking help for ure blushing now as i myself have suffered from severe blushing which happens constantly and is particullary bad when im speaking to people i dont know well and the blush is facial but extendes to my neck and chest area but also affects my arms if they are exposed.i am nearly 50 yrs old and dont want to just put up with this very dabilitating conditon any longer and would just like to wish you mel456 all the best on your possible future operation to eradicate the dibilitating phobia from your life.

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mel456 said on 24 March 2011

I suffer from hyperhidrosis, since i was in primary school. I am now 18 years old and fed up of this. I recently started to blush whenever i talk to people. I have tried lotions& creams, Iontophoresis, botox, yoga, proprananol and i have seen therapists, none of this has worked. The only thing to do now is have surgery, what surgery would you advise me to have or what else would you advise me to do. Any advice will be much appreciated... thanks.

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