Communicating with our fellow men is something very important for the human being, being in fact one of the bases that has allowed the development and evolution of our species. It is something complex that is subject to interpretation of both words and actions, and that can sometimes be judged.
Sometimes fears or even phobias can appear in this sense, some of them influenced by the mentality of certain cultures and groups. This is the case of the syndrome known as Taijin Kyofusho , which we will talk about next.
Taijin Kyofusho: What is this mental disorder?
Taijin Kyofusho is the name given to a psychological condition or alteration characterized by the presence of a disproportionate and irrational fear that one’s own communicative acts, body or physiological reactions will be noticed, judged and considered uncomfortable or disturbing by other people .
It is a type of phobia very similar to social phobia, which until recently has been considered a cultural syndrome specific to Japan and to a lesser extent Korea . However, it has now been observed that similar alterations exist in other parts of the world, and that some of its variants may correspond to other problems.
The possibility that other people may feel discomfort or unease when faced with different aspects of our encounter or interaction with them generates a very high level of panic and anxiety , which may also generate physiological reactions such as tachycardia, hyperventilation, sweating, nausea and vomiting. It also tends to generate an avoidance of contact with others, or the use of mechanisms such as masks to avoid exposure to aspects such as breath or smile.
Taijin Kyofusho is a general concept that encompasses the fear that our exposure to society may be a nuisance, but usually includes four much more specific subcategories.
This term refers to the phobia of turning red in public and making it uncomfortable for others .
In this case, the phobia is linked to the perception of one’s body as something deformed or to dissatisfaction with one’s body: it is the phobia of seeing one’s body or figure as something uncomfortable or disturbing.
This phobia refers to the phobia of maintaining eye contact, something that generates panic at the idea of the discomfort it can represent .
Body odor is in this case the stimulus that generates anxiety panic, or rather the idea that it can generate discomfort in others.
Difference from conventional social phobia
The truth is that Taijin Kyofusho could be considered a variant of social phobia , since they are deeply linked and based on the panic of social exposure.
However, there are some nuances that make us talk about a differentiated variant: in social phobia the panic is to be judged negatively while in this variant of fear is more linked to being a nuisance to others.
There are also typical components that could be identified with other phobias such as erythrophobia.
Causes of this alteration
The causes of kyofusho taijin syndrome are not yet fully known, especially given how specific it has been until recently.
However, as a variant of social phobia it is possible to establish hypotheses about it. It is considered that it may be the product of previous traumatic experiences during development and early socialization , perhaps being the subject scolded or marginalized by some of the previous aspects (especially by parents, couples or circles of friends or in general by highly significant people), because they consider themselves inadequate or incompetent having a low self-esteem or because they have observed how someone was judged by some of the phobic stimuli mentioned.
It is also associated with a lack or limitation of opportunities for normative social interaction.
The reason why Taijin Kyofusho is so relatively common in Japan and Korea, and has in fact led to its consideration as a culture-dependent syndrome, is due to the type of thinking and mentality peculiar to those cultures. In fact, a greater prevalence has been observed in collectivist cultures such as those already mentioned, since there is a much greater tendency in them than in individualist ones to generate personal identity based on social consideration.
It can also be derived from the high level of social demands maintained by societies such as Japan’s, with very high demands and expectations for all its citizens.
Taijin kyofusho is a phobic-type problem that, like all other phobias, can be treated.
First it would be necessary to analyze which stimuli generate fear, the meaning that the subject gives to it, when the phobia originated and why the person believes that it appeared. It would also be necessary to assess the contexts in which it usually appears, if there are some in which it does not and the difficulties it generates in the person’s daily life. Also, what importance is given to socialization, what it would imply to be a nuisance to others or why they think it could be so.
Once this is done, one of the most common therapies is exposure therapy , in which the subject is gradually and gradually exposed to a series of situations in order to cope with the anxiety. In the first place, a hierarchy of exposures would be made together with the patient and little by little the exposures would be made, each item being made until in at least two successive exposures the anxiety is significantly reduced before moving on to the next.
In parallel, one could work on the set of beliefs regarding oneself, society or the way to interact with it through techniques such as cognitive restructuring. The objective would be to generate interpretations of reality that are more adaptive than the original ones, linked to the idea of the negative effects of one’s presence on others. It would also be necessary to try to reduce the self-demanding and the importance given to the expectations that are considered to be held about us.
In severe cases, drug treatment may be needed to reduce the level of anxiety while learning to manage it.
- Suzuki, K., Takei, N., Kawai, M., Minabe, Y. and Mori, N. (2003). Is Taijin Kyofusho a Culture-Bound Syndrome? The American Journals office Psychiatry.
- Takahaski, T. (1989). Social phobia syndrome in Japan. Compr Psychiatry, 30: 45-52.
- Vriends, N., Pfaltz, M.C., Novianti, P. & Hadiyono, J. (2013). Taijin Kyofusho and Social Anxiety and Their Clinical Relevance in Indonesia and Switzerland. Front Psychol. 2013; 4: 3.