Vestiphobia: The Fear of Clothing

Definition of Vestiphobia or the fear of clothing. This article discusses the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of this phobia.

Vestiphobia is an overwhelming, irrational fear of clothing. It is important to understand that the person impacted by this phobia is not an exhibitionist or nudist. The vestiphobic individual simply wants to be free of clothing. Individuals coping with Vestiphobia may insist on wearing loose, oversized clothing or in extreme cases, may withdraw from society completely in order to avoid being clothed.

Vestiphobia is a combination of Latin and Greek words. It derives from the Latin word “vestis”, meaning clothing, garment or covering and the Greek word “phobos” meaning fear.

What Causes Vestiphobia?

All phobias are caused by a real-life trauma of some type. Thereafter, that traumatic experience is consistently and automatically associated with clothing.

The vestiphobic individual could have been raised in a culture or religion that dictated restrictive clothing. Maybe, as a child, the person’s parents required them to wear tight clothing. Perhaps the person compromised by Vestiphobia had a severe allergic reaction to a specific type of fabric and the phobia developed.

Whatever the cause, the vestiphobic person can experience anxiety and emotional turmoil that is completely compromising to their ability to function.

What Are the Symptoms of Vestiphobia?

The symptoms of Vestiphobia are individual and will vary among people. Some people, when confronted with their fear of clothing, may begin to perspire, feel slightly uncomfortable or become nauseated. At the opposite end of the spectrum, other people are so severely compromised by this phobia, that they may experience crippling anxiety and/or panic attacks.

Other symptoms of Vestiphobia may include:

  • A Dry Mouth
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Numbness
  • Heightened Senses
  • Breathlessness
  • Feeling Dizzy
  • Muscle Tension
  • Hyperventilation
  • Trembling
  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • Feeling Out of Control
  • Feeling Trapped and Unable to Escape
  • Intense Feeling of Impending Disaster

How Is Vestiphobia Diagnosed?

The vast majority of cases of Vestiphobia are self-diagnosed. The individual realizes that their fear of clothing is irrational and is severely compromising their ability to function on a daily basis.

The vestiphobic person may discuss their phobia with the primary physician. Rarely would the doctor diagnosis Vestiphobia based on that initial discussion with the patient. More routinely, after ruling out any medical reason for this phobia, the doctor will refer the person to a mental health professional for comprehensive assessment and evaluation.

How Is Vestiphobia Treated?

When the fear of clothing becomes intense enough to disrupt an individual’s ability to function, there are a number of ways to treat Vestiphobia.

These can include:

  • A referral from the primary physician to a therapist who specializes in the treatment of phobias.
  • Traditional “talk” therapy that will teach the person to recognize and control their phobia.
  • Hypnotherapy.
  • Exposure Therapy.
  • Self-help techniques such as purposeful muscle relaxation.
  • Support groups with other people who are coping with this specific phobia.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Desensitization Therapy.
  • Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visualization.
  • In severe cases of Vestiphobia, anti-anxiety medication can be prescribed.

Vestiphobia is an intense, irrational fear of clothing. Sometimes that fear can become so overwhelming as to completely halt a person’s ability to function on a daily basis. Unchecked, Vestiphobia can become a debilitating condition that interferes with an individual’s personal life, their social life and job responsibilities. Untreated, Vestiphobia can have a profound and devastating impact on every aspect of a person’s life.

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