July 16, 2012 – The recent tragedy where Brandon Thomas, a 20 year old college student, committed suicide opens the door for an improved understanding of a complex social anxiety disorder which currently impacts countless individuals of all ages worldwide. According to his parents, Brandon’s suicide was driven by his “unbearable blushing”.
Most medical professionals, including Dr. Enrique Jadresic, a Chilean psychiatrist, who was described in a recent MSNBC press release as the “world’s foremost expert in this area”, believe pathological blushing is an “involuntary response”.
Jonathan Berent, L.C.S.W. author of “Beyond Shyness: How to Conquer Social Anxieties” (Simon& Schuster), and “Work Makes Me Nervous: Overcome Anxiety and Develop the Confidence to Succeed” (Wiley), who has worked with thousands of social anxiety sufferers, stated today that he strongly disagrees with the term “involuntary response” as a comprehensive diagnostic.
Berent does agree with Dr. Jadresic that that “the social shame, which often accompanies blushing, can be devastating.” Berent has worked clinically with many patients with blushing, technically called “social anxiety-driven hyperhidrosis”, and has seen it lead to social avoidance, depression, and substance abuse. Berent adds “many patients who have been in treatment with me have considered a sympathectomy, or have had this invasive procedure, where nerves are cut to prevent blushing.”
Berent however intensely disagrees with Dr. Jadresic in his assertion that pathological blushing is an “involuntary response.” Berent states that “the psycho-physiological dynamics behind this disorder are crucial for the medical and mental health professionals to understand if clinical progress is to be achieved on any meaningful scale”.
The Magic Trick:
The Psycho-physiological “Mind Set” for Blushing Control
Patient x was an intelligent, attractive, athletic 20 year old college student who had recently been in a carjacking where he had been shot and almost killed. When he entered therapy with me it was absolutely incredible that this incident was hardly on his mind; what dominated his psyche was his uncontrollable blushing. This blushing, which had been present for many years, caused severe humiliation, shame, embarrassment, and depression. In addition it created substantial social avoidance, and relationship problems.
X was very motivated in treatment. We were able to do core work on self-esteem. Concurrent to this, we worked on the technique of adrenaline acceptance, which is a paradoxical mode of thinking to anxiety sufferers. X adapted the thinking that he was quarterbacking or piloting decision making and began to re-structure the defensive positioning associated with his anxiety.
One day in college when he was presenting a report in front of his class, he started by saying “guys; in a minute you will see a magic trick; my face is going to change color”. Guess what? He did not blush. Why; you are probably asking. The answer is because he went on offense (psychologically and behaviorally) instead of playing defense. By doing this he de-activated his psychological internal critical script that activated his autonomic hyper-sensitivity and the horrific visceral response associated with blushing.
Now don’t think that I suggest everyone implement this technique. It takes tremendous courage and substantial emotional work. The pathology of blushing is based on the sufferer’s belief that the blush is a character flaw and that when a blush occurs the flaw is revealed. Click here to listen to “Robert: Gifted Salesman” who describes two levels of anxiety during public speaking. Level one is “people can see I’m nervous”. Level two, which is deeper, is “people can see who I really am”.
The point I do want to teach is that when a proactive mind set is learned it can deactivate what appears to be an uncontrollable physiological reaction. It does take hard work! Click here for a detailed description of the Berent Method: High Performance Therapy for Social Anxiety”.
Click here to listen to “Kevin”, a lawyer who describes in detail how he learned to control his overwhelming hyper-hidrosis by controlling his internal critical script.