People who are camera phobic don’t have it easy these days. Nearly everyone has a camera on their phone. It may seem like every semi-memorable (and not so memorable) moment is uploaded to Facebook or Twitter as a photo or video. But there is a huge difference between disliking having one’s photo taken (being camera shy) and being truly phobic.
I’ve met numerous people who don’t enjoy having photos or videos taken of them. However, if they need to have their photo taken or if they are offered the opportunity to advance their careers by appearing in a TV interview, they can learn the skills they need to perform well. Those with camera phobia are not able to get past their fears and it makes life difficult for them. “I hate cameras!” The person might say. Or “I have the perfect face…for radio.” Meanwhile, what they experience is far more than a mere preference. Their hearts are pounding in their chests and they would do nearly anything to escape the situation.
Phobias often run in families. If you are someone who is camera phobic it may be worth mentioning to your family if you haven’t already. You may find that a parent also has a phobia. It may not be camera phobia (the tendency for phobias are shared but the specifics are often different) but they may be able to offer some helpful advice. Informing your spouse or significant other is important so that they can support you (and stop pressuring you to be in every photo!) Remember that if you pretend to be camera shy when actually you are having a phobic, anxiety reaction, people will not understand your struggle. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 6 million people in the United States have specific phobias of various forms, so you aren’t alone and it is nothing to be ashamed of.
Treatment for Camera Phobia vs Camera Shyness is Different
One technique that has been used successfully with phobias is called “flooding”. The treatment is challenging but it can be effective. The person is exposed to the fearful situation until the fear passes. In a classic example, a person with a fear of snakes first spends time in a room with a snake at far distance and ultimately touches and finally holds it. When they see that nothing bad happens to them even though they are immersed in their most feared situation, the fear response is short circuited.
A more gentle form of therapy with a similar goal is desensitization. In this technique the individual works with the therapist to develop a hiearchy of fearful situations and is introduced to them much more gradually. In this therapy the focus is on learning to relax the fear response and stair stepping up to each level.
Similar forms of therapy can be done with camera phobia. The “Befriend the Lens” technique that I teach for camera shyness in my book Naked Lens is based on desensitization. “Befriending the Lens” can be very effective for someone who is camera shy and wants to learn to enjoy being on camera. However if you are camera phobic, it may be too much to go it alone. Flooding and desensitization are best done with a trained therapist. The same goes for hypnosis which can also be an effective treatment for phobias.
Finally, remember that whether you are camera shy or camera phobic there are numerous ways you can overcome your fears. It might seem that the easiest solution is to avoid cameras. However, cameras will continue to become a bigger and bigger part of everyday life whether you enjoy them or not. From on-camera job interviews, to video conferences and chats to online videos that promote your company or your life’s work there are many reasons and opportunities to step forth and face the lens with comfort and ease. Millions of people have overcome their phobias and it is possible for you to do so as well.