The fear of nudity is a common condition in its mild form, and rare in its more severe form, which is also called gymnophobia. Most people have some apprehension about being seen undressed in front of others, and this is considered normal in many societies. Some individuals have a severe phobia of nudity and may experience anxiety seeing themselves or other people undressed or even when seeing any exposed body part, such as a bare leg or shoulder.
In most areas of the world, a mild to moderate fear of nudity is common. This fear is generally not debilitating, as it usually doesn’t affect one’s life or even cause undue stress when undressing in front of a new sexual partner. There is evidence that any stress related to nudity stems from society, as many primitive cultures consider full or partial nudity normal and it is even expected in front of others.
There is an uncommon and severe fear of nudity that can cause problems during day to day interactions with others. This condition is known as gymnophobia and may range in severity from moderate to very severe. Sufferers may become highly anxious at the thought of being seen naked or of seeing someone else naked. In severe cases, someone may become anxiety-ridden at seeing any portion of exposed skin.
Gymnophobia can have an impact on sexual relationships with others and may cause patients to avoid social interaction for fear that they will see someone with exposed arms, legs, backs, or abdomens. Counseling is recommended for these individuals. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective treatments for this severe fear of nudity, and it involves forcing patients to view exposed bodies or to expose portions of his or her body. By slowly exposing oneself to the source of anxiety or fear, it slowly loses its ability to cause such strong anxiety.
A debilitating fear of nudity is not common, and most individuals do not know that this phobia exists. Apprehension at being seen naked is relatively normal, although some may experience this feeling more than others. Those who are uncomfortable with their physical appearance or who were raised in very modest households are more likely to have issues with nudity than those who are happy with their bodies or who were raised in a more liberal environment.