people looking at youI have had a number of presentation coaching clients who have avoided making presentations because of an acute fear of being looked  or judged.

The technical name for the fear of people looking at you is Scopophobia and can be a very debilitating.  Whilst some cases need specialist 1:1 therapy, many find that simple techniques like the one in this post can make a big difference.

First you have to understand what causes your “scopophobia ”

Phobias are the result of exaggerated thought process, often triggered by an early negative experience.  These patterns get “locked in” causing an emotional chain reaction.   One thought triggers another, and that thought triggers the next and so on. the result is that your thoughts become extremely exaggerated, causing phobias and anxieties.

I’m going to share one sufferer’s thought process just so you understand the sort of thing that used to go on in her mind.    afterwards I’ll explain what she did to resolve it.

Here’s a typical example of thinking that can trigger anxiety about people looking at you:
As I’m about to give a presentation , I feel like when I’m about to get in a huge, scary roller coaster. I’m aware of the people looking at me and how people react to every action I make. As soon as I make a mistake no matter how small the mistake is or was, my mind will exaggerate it and that’s when the chain reaction of thoughts begins.

“As the negative thoughts are triggered, now I’m more aware of my surroundings and ultra aware of everything I do. How I am standing, how fast my heart is beating, the tremor in my hands and the churning in my stomach. These thoughts trigger other physical reactions and ramp up my anxiety.”

Soon my mind is flooded with dozens of thoughts and explanations that make me lose concentration. My concentration levels become so low that a lot of times is almost and impossible to speak without hesitation or going blank.”

“If this goes on it will become hard for me to pay attention or to think straight. it will also trigger other physical and mental reactions like, severe nervousness, the need to escape the situation, shaking, blushing, and numbness of my body. The chain reaction of thoughts repeats itself, until I’m out of the presentation.”.

In this case what triggers the scopophobia are the exaggerated thoughts of people looking at her and thinking negatively about her and her apparent awkwardness.  In reality, they don’t even notice it!

One solution for scopophobia:
To eliminate the fear of people looking at you, you have to  either change your thought processes or eliminate what triggers those thoughts. The lady in the above example chose to eliminate the triggers.

To stop looking awkward she created a second personality, a personality that she assumed when she had to give a presentation.

For example, she described to me how she chose a role model (a TV character in her case) who, she believed, had the confidence and social skills that she aspired to.

When she wanted to appear confident in a presentation, she would imagine what her “role model” would do if they were in her place. How would they stand, move, speak, think,  and react?

By copying how that person behaved  (but not what they would say) she was able to project more confidence and as a result her anxiety started to subside automatically.

This is just one of a number of techniques that can be applied when your fear of people looking at you is stopping you get your message across and perhaps holding you back from a new job or promotion.

If you have found your own solution to the problem of scopophobia please share it with us by leaving a comment below.

If you found this technique helpful please use the social buttons to share it with your friends you never know who else has the same problem around people looking at you.



  1. ameliactn on 30/08/2021 at 19:40

    hi, it is very helpful for me. That’s nice. It’s really a very wonderful blog. Thank you for sharing it. Please keep posting!
    Scopophobia: The Fear of Being Seen/ Stared By Others

  2. robbin 765 on 16/08/2021 at 18:48

    Well researched and written! Glad to read what was happening behind the shocking headlines

  3. joe on 25/10/2017 at 02:57

    Hey Maarten can you pleeeeeeease walk me through step by step how you got over this? It is destroying my life, I have the exact symptoms you have. The crazy part is there’s no reason for me not to have confidence so it’s hardwired somewhere in my mind ESPECIALLY when large groups of people look at me or in a quiet setting with other people crammed in a room. I feel like I can hear their thoughts but I think it’s my mind going crazy. I need this to stop. How exactly did you overcome it step by step if you don’t mind me asking? It would mean the world if you took the time to get me out of this shit show and perhaps save my life! I have done research as well but you seem to have mastered it from where I am at right now. I need to be able to feel good when people are staring at me!! thank you so much!!

  4. Anon on 19/05/2017 at 07:15

    There is no evidence for NLP and what you describe initially is social anxiety – this is different to scopophobia. If you do not have expertise consider not offering it to vulnerable people who are seeking and deserve genuine support.

    • Gavin Meikle on 19/05/2017 at 09:47

      Thanks for your comment anon. I beg to differ and would be happy to discuss this with you further. Perhaps you’d be good enough to let us know your name and your own qualifications/relevant experience so that I and my other readers may make an objective assessment of your own credibility. Also, I’d appreciate it if you would share any alternative approaches to dealing with this serious and debilitating condition in order to enrich the discussion.

      • Anna on 09/05/2023 at 19:48

        I am not sure what that individual is talking about. I have “paper credentials” (if that’s what it takes these days), but I ALSO have Social Anxiety as well as Scopophobia (the latter is a self-diagnosis, but tbh, I would be a moron not to know this pertains to me). At any rate, I don’t know the author of this paper, but I was thrilled to read it. About 20 years ago, when watching “The Pickup Artist” on VH1 of all things, I came up with a “technique” more or less identical to this. Except rather than apply it to presentations, I applied it (to myself) each time I was about to go into a grocery store, which was something I did daily back then.

        I had an “alter ego” that I’d already developed previously in my mind, and before getting out of my car–if not preferably during the drive there as well–I would make sure to remind myself that “I am [so and so]. I am confident, I have many accomplishments, people look at me and wish they could know me, I am bad-ass and everyone knows it.”

        I was just messing around initially, to be honest. But it worked the very first time I entered that store. As long as I kept thinking I was this character I’d chosen for myself (which can be somebody real or fictional, or a combo of both) I felt unflappable.

        Social Anxiety is one of those things that needs to be cultivated, in either direction, in order to be maintained at the place it is at. What I’m saying is that as long as I practiced this method more and more, my own inner confidence grew. It gets to a point where you rely less and less on the “alter ego”–that is the goal.

        But if you allow it to slip altogether, you run the risk of going back to where you were before. Bottom line: it’s a challenge you need to keep working on every day of your life. But working on it gets easier over time, and I know firsthand that it is not hopeless. My own case was one of the most severe cases of SA (without Agoraphobia) that I still know of even to this date.

  5. Anil on 20/12/2016 at 12:05

    Marteen explain me how a person can recover from scopophobia.

  6. #barney# on 01/03/2016 at 17:51

    Hi.I totally understand this topic cause I’m suffering from it also.I was 12years old when I first noticed it,over the years it became worse.the only time it didn’t bother me were when I’m drunk.I could go to a funerals and public places and wouldn’t care less.and no! I’m not an alcholic.the fear just dissapears.I recently had a divorce and whenever I see my ex wife it starts again.I’m making a fool of myself.I can’t control it.I’m even scared to go to a docter,I wouldn’t feel comfortable in the waiting area coz my mind will constantly place negative thoughts infront of me.what can I do?

    • Gavin Meikle on 03/03/2016 at 16:48

      Hi Henry
      I wish I could help you but the problem you describe is beyond by level of expertise. I would recommend that you speak to a local NLP practitioner as they should be able to help you deal with this specific issue. I am sorry I can’t be of more assistance.

  7. Anonymous on 07/04/2014 at 22:49

    I personally think that I could get over it, but the way everyone describes it just isn’t for me. I cant find a way to get over it properly, just like my fear of heights. I actually had to go up somewhere high but the thingis im afraid ill fall

    • Gavin Meikle on 14/05/2014 at 08:11

      Thanks for sharing your comment. This can indeed be a challenging condition. It may be that you could benefit from seeing a pyschologist or an NLP practitioner. There are a number of techniques for dealing with this type of thing 1:1 including the NLP Fast Phobia Cure. Gavin

  8. Maarten on 23/09/2013 at 00:48

    Late reaction, but here it goes: I’ve had (and still have) sociophobia for over two years. I don’t exactly know what triggered it but I do know I couldn’t stand the thought of people looking at me, being in closed rooms or social gatherings I couldn’t immediately leave. The result was that I started to sweat until I got soaked and thus the fear became even worse to the point where I started having these panic attacks.
    Well, I always lived by the philosophy that, to overcome a problem, you have to analyse it from deep within. So I started searching the web for tons of information, started reading books, went to therapy (although I quit that soon). I became a non-licensed expert on the matter. I meticulously bult in buffer zones to have a safe point. For instance: I bought shoes with zip fastening so I could directly loosen them to cool off and always wore cotton clothing (which helps not to get sweaty that fast).
    These self-obtained insights in combination with benzodiazepines I took, helped me to get through the days. (I must warn those who read this: I knew how to handle benzodiazepines over a long period of time and also because I had already taken some sleeping pills over the years. Always make sure to build in at least 3 off days a week- otherwise you’ll get addicted pretty fast. Take caution there! I know what I’m talking about, I once got addicted to sleeping pills due to underestimation).
    I know what pyschologists tend to say: if you get stuck in these ‘safety routines’ you are unlikely to resolve your anxiety. But very often psychologists only advise from what they’ve read in their books, I’m not saying you shouldn’t take them seriously. I’d just like to point out that any person can react differently to a given mehod.
    Anyway; over time I got so familiar with the signals that possibly could cause a panic build-up or attack and I learned to master the situations. In that way I truly started to regain confidence: I forced myself to stay in these situations more often (I knew I had buffers) and the fear started to decrease. Now I can safely say that the fear doesn’t dictate my every move any longer.
    The best part is, I did it all by myself. No therapy and believe me: I was in a severe condition, even thought of suicide every single day…

    I still keep a pack of benzodiazepines with me, just in case. But when I do take them (once a month or so) I feel like I might have well done without them. The only downside of my ‘recovery’ is that I kind of miss my ‘situation’ of fear… How odd that may sound, one tends to become hooked to these routines caused by your anxiety. It makes for a predictable life but puts your life on a hold.

    I hope that some can find relieve in reading this. Sincerely.

    • Gavin Meikle on 23/09/2013 at 09:35

      Hello Maarten
      Thanks for sharing your personal journey and experiences of this debilitating condition. I am pleased to hear that your perseverance has paid off. I am sure that your story will give others hope too.

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