Blushing is a unique blend of evolutionary and social behavior. It's an involuntary reaction of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our ';fight or flight'; response, but blushing is solely triggered by social cues.
People generally blush when they're feeling embarrassed, scared, or stressed. As a result of the ';fight or flight'; response, the capillaries that carry blood to the skin widen, and the increased blood flow lends the face, as well as sometimes the chest, neck, or even the body or legs, a reddened color.
Excessive facial blushing, or erythrophobia, is caused by overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system. The condition can cause a lot of psychological duress and has engendered several support groups.
It's common knowledge that animals don't blush. So while there are some evolutionary cues behind blushing, it's also linked to something uniquely human -- moral consciousness.What is it that makes me blush when I am embarassed?
When you are embarrassed the blood rushes to your face, making your cheeks go red.
You may notice it also happens when you are angry - it is an involuntary nervous system response to what is perceived as a threat.What is it that makes me blush when I am embarassed?
Blushing is a brief reddening of the face, ears and neck, often spreading to the upper part of the chest, which can be accompanied by a feeling of heat.
The skin contains a network of small blood vessels with tiny muscles in their walls. Normally, these muscles are partly squeezed (contracted). Extreme contraction causes the vessels to close down so that less blood passes through them. This means less blood flows to the skin and it becomes pale or white. Full relaxation of these tiny muscles causes widening (dilatation), and a larger quantity of blood than normal passes through the skin, causing flushing, or blushing.
These small muscles in the blood vessels are controlled by the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is the network of nerves in the body that produce reflex or automatic reactions, that cannot be consciously controlled. This in turn is affected by various factors, such as heat, illness, or even the emotions. If a person tends to blush very often (for example during adolescence), it may be because they are feeling emotionally sensitive, or because the autonomic system is working too hard.
Some people blush more easily than others. For example, the same hot spicy food may produce a faint, barely visible flush in one person while another becomes very red.
Facial blushing may be accompanied by hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), particularly of the face or hands.
CausesBlushing is usually a natural and involuntary bodily response to an emotional feeling such as embarrassment, guilt, shame or nervousness.
Other causes of blushing include:
Menopause. Widening of the blood vessels in the face causes the hot flushes of the menopause. In this case, the autonomic system is stimulated because the woman is not producing enough of the female sex hormone, oestrogen. Certain drugs such as tamoxifen can cause blushing. Spicy foods, high fever, or exercise. When the body becomes too hot, the brain detects this and tries to bring body temperature back to normal. One of the ways it does this is by opening blood vessels wider, bringing blood to the surface of the skin to be cooled down. Severe blushing (known as idiopathic cranio-facial erythema) is common in people who are extremely anxious or self-conscious in social situations. This condition may be diagnosed as social phobia.
Sometimes reddening of the skin is caused by a skin condition. For example, the condition acne rosacea is caused by permanent widening of the blood vessels of the skin of the cheeks and nose. It can also affect the eyes.
TreatmentTreatment for blushing depends on the cause. If blushing is part of an underlying condition such as the menopause or certain skin disorders (such as acne rosacea), then it is best to make sure this cause is diagnosed and treated appropriately.
Teenagers usually grow out of blushing, when it has been caused by anxiety, nervousness and hormonal activity.
If blushing is caused by nervousness or social phobia, then there are psychological treatment options, including:
Cognitive behavioural therapy - to change the way people think or feel in social situations. Breathing techniques - to relieve anxiety and hyperventilation (excessive rapid breathing). Confronting fears - professional treatment for the sources of anxiety. Drug treatments may include:
Anxiety medications - to calm the person and reduce incidences of blushing. Beta-blockers - to manage the symptoms of anxiety such as heart palpitation. Clonidine - a medicine that affects the chemical reactions that control the widening of blood vessels. In cases of severe facial blushing, surgery may be considered. An endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS) can be performed, in which the some of the nerves that cause the facial blood vessels to widen are cut.
Blushing can be camouflaged using a green colour-corrective moisturiser. Some types of product can be used under a foundation but others are suitable for use alone, so are particularly appropriate for men with blushing problems.