The Phobia of Being Photographed

All Behind-The-ScenesBusinessChild modellingCouplesDancersFamilyFemale modellingFitnessGlamourInspirationLadiesMale modellingMensModellingModels CornerPersonalPlus size modellingPortfolio of the WeekStyling AdviceTeens

The Phobia of Being Photographed

MG_0917sml

We live in an age dominated by pictures. Photo sharing apps like Snapchat and Instagram now compete with emails and phone calls as a primary means of staying in touch with friends. For many, these advancements in technology are fun and fulfilling. But for others, they can bring severe stress and a crippling sense of anxiety. I’m talking about people with a phobia of being photographed.

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill ‘I look hideous today’ type scenario. These are people who experience panic attacks, nausea and even vomiting as a result of having their picture taken.

Sounds extreme? Well if it didn’t then it wouldn’t be a phobia, right!?

I’ve spent hours trawling through forums written by people who share this phobia. One woman in Canada wrote “I have the most intense crippling fear of being photographed… I didn’t join the library until they had an online membership. I can’t renew my passport… Or my drivers license. It seems like you need photo membership cards for everything now…” A lady in the UK responded with a comment “I cut myself out of every photo and threw my wedding album on the fire”. Others discussed how they avoid social occasions altogether when they know that they’ll be expected to pose for photos.

While cameras are a relatively new invention and a definition for the phobia of being photographed has not yet been established, there are similar phobias dating back thousands of years. Scopophobia refers to the fear of being looked at and Eisoptrophobia is the fear of seeing one’s own reflection. As many fellow Australians will know, some cultures fear cameras for religious or spiritual reasons, believing that photos can steal one’s soul or prevent it from passing on to the afterlife. This is the case with many Australian Aborigine cultures. However this modern day phobia does not seem to be about that. It seems much more rooted in issues of self-esteem, body image and self-identity.

My research showed me that one reason this phobia affects people so deeply is that on top of the anxiety it causes can often come a sense of guilt. A feeling that one is hurting family or friends by not participating in their ‘happy memories’. It’s easy to dismiss the phobia as silly, with comments like “Just get in the photo – you’re only making it worse.” But the first thing to know about phobias is that they are deeply-rooted and forcing someone to face theirs unwillingly can make it far worse. Would throwing a tarantula onto an arachnophobe cure their fear of spiders? I doubt it. So why would shoving a camera into someone’s face cure their phobia of being photographed?

The specific reasons that people give for their phobia are varied. Many commented that it’s because they feel ashamed or embarrassed at the way they look in photos. That they think they have a fake smile and look miserable, or that they look ugly and will be judged because of it. Other people said that the fear is more about the sense of permanence; in the not knowing where the photo will end up and who will look at it.

Social anxieties, body image disorders and self-esteem issues are deep, complex issues and I am by no means qualified to discuss them. I guess if anything I wrote this post with the simple intention of spreading awareness. Firstly, so that people who have a phobia of being photographed know that they are not alone. It is a common experience for men and women across the globe. Heck, even world-famous singer Adelle has this phobia and is reported to have undergone ‘photo-healing therapy’ with a Californian hypnotherapist! And secondly, I hope that this story reaches someone who has a friend or family member with this phobia, so that they will no longer dismiss it so flippantly. Recognize that this fear is connected with people’s sense of identity. And that is not a ‘silly’ thing.

Lastly I would like to say that in my research I discovered many people who overcame their phobia of being photographed, proving that it doesn’t have to be a permanent thing. While you may not wish to take new photos, try to resist destroying the ones that you already have… Maybe one day you will look back on them and smile.

.

7 Comments

ZolaTBenne

Today, I went to the beach with my children. I found a
sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and
said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed.
There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.
She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely off
topic but I had to tell someone!

Reply
Drew Sullivan

Haha, that’s the last time your daughter will take your advice! Thanks for sharing Zola 🙂

Reply
Ferrum

My brother suffers this phobia. I suspect he suffers high functional autism too. He is extremelly intelligent but he have many problems to fix in society. Eventhough he is an excelent employee with high qualifications. He refuses all time to participate in a picture and I fear for this time he has destroyed all his pictures. This have happened since some years ago. Before, he had no problem with pictures at all. Now he refuses to appear in a picture and became irritated if one tries to took a picture of him even in the normal scenarios when pictures are a by default social norm as familly celebrations or social events. I fear this could be a sympthome of something more serious. I am pretty sure this have nothing to do with religious believes as I understand very well about my brother’s religious background.

Reply
Carol

I think my phobia began as a 12 yr old child. I had a hard time sitting still in front of an audience. So when asked to sit for a picture I would tense up and feel uncomfortable. It has continued through my adult life and has become more intense. The heart pounds and the shoulders shake. I avoid sitting for a photo at all cost. I want to overcome this as I know it is stupid. Any suggestions?

Reply
myfi

carol there is nothing stupid about your phobia
when i had cancer a second time and was in hospital the media were relentless i had no hair one time after having a bone marow biopsy i was making my way back to the ward i was in a lot of pain and the media came after me i fell over my iv cord and it came out the media photographers cornered me
then told the nurse i pulled my iv line out deliberately i got screamed at and they made sure it hurt when it was put back in from that time on i was teriffied of photographers it became a mental barrier my fear caused me to collapsed on year 8 photo day the school sent me down down to the phototgrapy studio
i suffered a mental brake down the photographer wilfred told me to talk about my fear witch he totaly understood and helped me over come my fear in a non threatening i managed to compleatly over come my fear totaly way he is the nicest person i ever knew and became a frend as we have known each other for 21years maybe you need to discuss your problem with a friend or phycoloigist the more you discuss your fear the easer it will be to over come it
your not alone this fear affects a lot of people

Reply
Caleb

Thank you for this article. It made me realize that I’m not the only one. It’s really hard living with this phobia. Where friends want us to take countless pictures and to capture important moments in our lives. ☹

Reply
Adriana

This article describes me perfectly. I cannot stand and just smile. I feel like it’s fake. I don’t understand how everyone can just pull a genuine looking smile out of their bag. I have to really be smiling or you can see in my eyes it’s not genuine. Every time I get my picture taken I look weird. People tell me I’m beautiful all the time and are very disappointed/ surprised that I have such hang ups. I worry that I’ll have a job where I have to have employee photos taken.. anxieties….. is there anyone out there that knows how to help people like us? This is debilitating!

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *