From ditching your personal style in a bid to hide your body to spending holidays holed up in your room to avoid putting a bikini on, negative body image can permeate all aspects of your life.
This is no more true than when it comes to the bedroom, especially if the thought of being naked sends you down a spiral of anxiety and negative self-talk.
While many people have a tricky relationship with their bodies and nudity in general, it’s important to note that, on the extreme end, the fear of being naked is a legit phobia, known as ‘gymnophobia’.
Why am I scared of being naked?
‘For some, gymnophobia can be a highly functioning anxiety disorder that affects their everyday life and hinder or hurt intimacy altogether,’ Serena Novelli, a love, sex and relationship expert specialising in female sexuality, tells Metro.co.uk.
Gymnophobia is really individual, meaning that different people will have different levels of fear towards nudity – which will shift depending on the context.
For example, some people might fear public nudity, like in the gym changing rooms, while others might be afraid of seeing other people’s naked bodies.
Others, on the other hand, might fear being naked alone – or just with a romantic partner.
‘There are many reasons why some people fear being naked, but some of the more common reasons could be to do with religious upbringing, past sexual trauma or social conditioning around body image, such as having been bullied or shamed in relation to your body while growing up,’ Serena adds.
How can a fear of nudity impact your mental health and relationships?
A fear of nudity can have a severe impact on people on a personal level, with those who suffer from gymnophobia also likely to suffer with body dysmorphia, social anxiety and a lack of sexual expression, according to Serena.
‘In some of the more severe cases, individuals may refrain from bathing altogether,’ she says.
It can also have a damaging effect on relationships: it may be difficult to form trust and intimacy with potential partners, especially if you’re unable to undress in front of a partner.
That being said, you don’t need to be naked to have a fulfilling sex life – you can keep on your t-shirt or even try some roleplay costumes if that’s something you can get behind.
‘Get creative with how you can show up comfortably through intimacy with your partner,’ says Serena.
How to get comfortable being naked:
While getting past the anxiety of being naked takes work, it’s going to be worth it in the long-run, particularly for your own mental health and self-esteem.
Below are some expert tips on how to get there:
Serena suggests using mirror work to become more comfortable looking at – and accepting – your naked body.
‘Mirror work is a fabulous tool for building more acceptance around your own body,’ she says.
‘If you have a fear of being naked you can start small, maybe removing a cardigan and taking in your arms, and building up to complete nakedness over time.’
As Serena says, it’s important to understand where your fear is derived from: is it due to a sexually conservative upbringing, for example? Or maybe it’s rooted in body dysmorphia.
‘These are stories and deeply rooted conditioning that have built up over time,’ she says. ‘And they’re usually trying to protect us from something.’
When addressing potential traumas, it’s a good idea to work with a therapist in order to safely navigate whatever comes up.
Then you can devise a plan to start working on feeling comfortable in your own skin.
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