Scopophobia- the fear of being watched

  • Maariya Rachid DaudDoctor of Philosophy - PhD, Bioprocessing and Chemical Engineering, The University of Manchester

Scopophobia is a phobia used to refer to people who are scared of being watched. In this article we will discuss in detail what scopophobia is, why it is important to understand the phobia, and how to manage the condition if you are diagnosed with it or think you may have it.

What is Scopophobia?

Scopophobia is a phobia or fear of being watched or stared at by others Alternatively, it can also be defined as a fear of seeing other people. This fear is closely associated with generalised anxiety disorder however it is different in the sense that it is both a social and a specific phobia. The level of severity of scopophobia and symptoms associated can vary according to a range of factors including time since one has been suffering from the phobia, the cause behind the phobia, and external stimuli such as social settings and involved participants. Generally, there is a low understanding or awareness of the phobia even though the specific symptoms associated with it in some areas can be very excessive in nature and harmful especially if experienced over a prolonged time of period. The lack of awareness on the topic is also reflected in the very few literatures published relating to scopophobia.1,2  Alternative names of this term include scoptophobia and ophthalmophobia, the latter has its origin from Greek in which the “ophtalmo” refers to the eye and “phobia” meaning a fear.

Symptoms of Scopophobia

The symptoms of scopophobia are similar to anxiety disorder including a fast heartbeat or tachycardia, feeling nervous and anxious, shaking, sweating, feeling restless, being easily distracted, a dry mouth, blushing and experiencing panic attacks.3 These symptoms can act as further triggers to cause more discomfort and anxiety. For example, if one experiences shaking because of scopophobia, their symptoms may become exacerbated if they also have a phobia of shaking. This is important to be aware of because it is not uncommon for individuals with scopophobia to have other phobias too. 

It is important to be aware of scopophobia so that society can be mindful before marginalising people who suffer with this phobia. Raising awareness and having an understanding of scopophobia reduces the stigma associated with such phobias and normalises the condition allowing sufferers of this condition to feel slightly less uncomfortable and eases their fears of being judged.. Furthermore, spreading knowledge about scopophobia can encourage people to seek medical help. It is vital to be aware of scopophobia as it reduces the chances of society unintentionally affecting people.

There is no specific mention of the term scopophobia until recently when used in medical contexts. However, there has been mention of instances where being looked at has been associated with discomfort or negative connotations. For example ancient superstitions and some religious beliefs are based around the concept of “evil eye” and a feeling of being judged by others.4

Incidence and prevalence

The incidence and prevalence of scopophobia is not known due to a lack of research. However a study showed the 12 month prevalence of  females is greater by 5.5% compared to males.5 Scopophobia can be a part of social anxiety disorder known as social phobia with a prevalence of roughly 10%. Social phobia is also more common in females compared to males indicating that this may be the case for scopophobia too.6

Scopophobia can be present in individuals of all ages but research does not show the most affected age group due to lack of studies and hence demographic evidence.However it is highly likely for scopophobia, like social anxiety disorder, to begin in childhood and adolescence due to the profound similarities between the two conditions.7

Triggers of Scopophobia

A range of factors from alterations in the brain related to stress responses to traumatic experiences can be the underlying cause of scopophobia. An uncomfortable eye contact interaction especially in childhood may act as a stimulus for symptoms related to scopophobia. This experience for some people can be traumatic and persist into later stages of life. Some individuals are more prone to feeling scared due tof functional changes in certain regions of their brain. For example, if the amygdala region is enlarged, individuals are more likely to experience the stress response and as a result are more likely to develop anxiety and phobias including scopophobia.8 Furthermore, some individuals may be conditioned to act fearful in response to being watched if they observe this behaviour in others. This way of copying behaviour of others or social conditioning may be another possible cause of one having this fear. 

Another major factor contributing to scopophobia may be low self-esteem. Low self-esteem can make one extremely conscious about themselves and their actions. Poor self-esteem can cause scopophobia to manifest through constant fear of being judged by others.9

The risk factors that may increase the chances of one developing this fear can include:

  • Overall low self-esteem
  • Having other phobias such as social phobia, 
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mental health conditions
  • Abuse of substances such as cocaine and excess caffeine that affect the amygdala resulting it in its enlargement or cause it to hyperactivate, 
  • Trauma
  • Genetics, 
  • Major life changing phases in life.10

Managing Scopophobia

There are many ways to help reduce or eliminate scopophobia including with the aid of medication designed to help with anxiety. like serotonin reuptake inhibitors.10 Altering your lifestyle by having healthy meals and doing regular exercise can also help your mental health and boost self-esteem. Practicing mindfulness through meditation or yoga can be another useful way to improve mental wellbeing which is important for when tackling scopophobia. Furthermore, cognitive behaviour therapy that includes desensitising someone to the stimulus, through gradual exposure, that starts their symptoms can also be used as a possible cure for scopophobia.10 Support groups for scopophobia are vital in allowing sufferers of scopophobia to know that they are not alone. Such groups strengthens the understanding of scopophobia,provide support for similar individuals as well as a safe place to talk about scopophobia, have their questions answered, and seek new knowledge about ways to cope with this fear.


Scopophobia can be an extremely difficult phobia to manage.However there are many ways that exist which can help a person suffering from scopophobia allowing them to successfully manage their condition. There are many causes that exist for scopophobia and how it can be a challenge to find the root cause or trigger for its occurrence. However once this is identified treatment can be more effectively given by medical professionals or psychologists. With more research into this phobia there is a possibility of new discoveries being made into what the optimal treatment for this is by assessing effectiveness of the different methods.


  1. Alencar MS, Kubrusly M, de Oliveira CMC, de Aquino BOA, Viana IN, Morais PI, et al. Association of scopophobia with online learning fatigue among medical students in Brazil. BMC Med Educ [Internet]. 2023 Apr 6 [cited 2023 Oct 13];23:221. Available from:
  2. Alencar MS, Kubrusly M, Aquino BOA de, Viana IN, Morais PI, Rocha HAL. Depression among Brazilian medical students exposed to remote learning and the role of scopophobia. Med Teach. 2023 July 24;1–8. Available from: 
  3. Healthline [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2023 Oct 13]. Scopophobia: the fear of being stared at. Available from:
  4. Berger AS. The Evil Eye--an ancient superstition. J Relig Health. 2012 Dec;51(4):1098–103. Available from: 
  5. Wardenaar KJ, Lim CCW, Al-Hamzawi AO, Alonso J, Andrade LH, Benjet C, et al. The cross-national epidemiology of specific phobia in the World Mental Health Surveys. Psychol Med [Internet]. 2017 Jul [cited 2023 Oct 13];47(10):1744–60. Available from:
  6. Asher M, Asnaani A, Aderka IM. Gender differences in social anxiety disorder: A review. Clin Psychol Rev. 2017 Aug;56:1–12. Available from: 
  7. Health (UK) NCC for M. Social anxiety disorder. In: Social Anxiety Disorder: Recognition, Assessment and Treatment [Internet]. British Psychological Society (UK); 2013 [cited 2023 Oct 13]. Available from:
  8. Zhang X, Ge T tong, Yin G, Cui R, Zhao G, Yang W. Stress-induced functional alterations in amygdala: implications for neuropsychiatric diseases. Front Neurosci [Internet]. 2018 May 29 [cited 2023 Oct 13];12:367. Available from:
  9. Mukherjee C. Scopophobia – the fear of being watched or looked at [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 Oct 13]. Available from:
  10. Verywell Mind [Internet]. [cited 2023 Oct 13]. How the fear of being stared at can limit your life. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

Get our health newsletter

Get daily health and wellness advice from our medical team.
Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to this website may be placed by us on our servers. If you do not agree do not provide the information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818