The other day, during a dance lesson, my instructor, Tom, asked me if I'd ever heard of "fear of blushing". I never had, but we talked a bit about social phobias in general.
Mine is public speaking. I hate it, it makes me sweat (and I hate that too) and stammer, and even panic. I have to do it now and then, but I move heaven and earth in trying to avoid it. Panic attacks are a bit different: I've had a couple related to my fear of heights (acrophobia).
Fear of blushing is called erythrophobia, and has been classified as a psychosomatic disorder. Not only does the victim blush at the slightest provocation, but they decrease human contact in avoidance of the embarrassment of what they perceive as inappropriate blushing, avoid situations that might induce blushing, and have feelings of guilt and shame associated with the blushing.
Social anxieties or social phobias run the gamut from mild to incapacitating, reflecting fear, apprehension or anxiety about social situations and being judged or eveluated by others. The experience has physiological components (blushing, sweating, trembling, stammering), cognitive components (belief that one is being judged), and behavioral components (avoiding triggering situations).
Most people some social anxieties. Those in whom they are debilitating can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy or a class of drugs called antidepressants (particularly, selective seretonin reuptake inhibitors like Zoloft or Prozac).
[Illustration from the Media Technology Research Centre]