Taijin Kyofusho: A Certain Type Of Anxiety Disorder

You’re talking to someone, but you feel like you’re irritating them. You are afraid to offend people, to make them uncomfortable by being around them, afraid to look people in the eye, to feel ugly, to be shy, and much more. This type of social phobia has the Japanese name taijin kyofusho.
Taijin kyofusho: a certain type of anxiety disorder

Taijin kyofusho is a special social phobia. It is a social phobia that makes people afraid to offend others in some way, either by saying the wrong thing, making the wrong gesture, or even looking at them. Strange as this phobia may seem, it is a textbook example of social anxiety disorder.

This particular disorder is most common in Japan. As you probably know, the Japanese have high standards of proper conduct, absolute respect for others, and well-mannered civility. Also, it is worth noting that this type of social phobia can manifest itself in any culture.

Taijin kyofusho comes from a deep self-doubt. This creates an obsession with being considered perfect. For example, people who suffer from it want to look good, have the best posture, or have the most outgoing personality. This makes people always doubt themselves.

Likewise, things like being ashamed of stuttering, saying something stupid, or smelling bad are examples of the little things that make up taijin kyofusho.

Taijin kyofusho was first observed in Japan. However, in the western world, this type of phobia does not have its own category. It is classified among the other social phobias.

taijin kyofusho

The characteristics and treatment of taijin kyofusho

Taijin kyofusho can be translated as “the disorder of fears.” This type of phobia was first described in Japan. In Japanese culture, groups are more important than individuals. So the fear of offending others is understandable.

You can also see this kind of phobia in other places in the world. For the Japanese, however, it is a well-known psychiatric syndrome. You hardly hear about it in the West. Although it does not belong to any particular category, it is part of other specific and related obsessive disorders.

The differences between taijin kyofusho and social anxiety

Although taijin kyofusho is a different type of social phobia, it is worth noting a few special things, such as:

  • People with social phobias worry a lot and feel ashamed and anxious when they are in the presence of other people. However, people with taijin kyofusho are afraid to make a fool of themselves or annoy other people by simply existing.
  • It’s not about how people with this disorder react in a specific environment. They are unsure of how others might react when they interact with them.
  • Another interesting fact is obsessive-compulsive behavior. For example, there is the case of an American woman with this disorder. During a study by the National University of Health Sciences in Chicago, this patient had a particular obsession: looking at other people’s genitals. She knew this was uncomfortable for them and although she was worried about it, she couldn’t stop staring.

These details show how complicated this psychiatric disorder is.

Japanese workers at a meeting

The characteristics of taijin kyofusho

This condition has four subspecies that make up a specific type of phobia. These are:

  • Sekimen-kyofu: The fear of blushing and making other people feel uncomfortable.
  • Shubo-kyofu: The fear of irritating others because you are unattractive.
  • Jiko-shisen-kyofu: Thinking that looking at them makes others feel threatened or uncomfortable.
  • Jiko-shu-kyofu: The fear of having bad body odor.

In the West we can take these four aspects into account:

  • Analyzing whether these characteristics are permanent or transient. For example, this behavior may start during adolescence and then disappear again.
  • How bad the phobia is.
  • Having delusions and/or obsessive-compulsive thoughts.
  • This condition is common in people with schizophrenia.
A double exposure of a woman

What are the treatments for this disorder?

From a cultural point of view, taijin kyofusho can be very interesting. For example, the first treatment for this condition took place as early as 1910, by Dr. Shoma Morita. At the time, this was the therapeutic approach the doctor used as follows:

  • isolating the patient in a specific environment
  • invite the patient to rest and relax
  • writing a diary
  • do handicrafts, such as gardening
  • to the lectures of Dr. Morita go

Beginning in the 1930s, Dr. Morita some of these aspects. He introduced group therapy, and also drug administration. Today, the Japanese still use Dr. morita. In the West it is different. Taijin kyofusho is not recognized as a separate condition, so it is treated as a social phobia.

We can then use cognitive therapy, with exposure to triggers, self-esteem and relaxation techniques. However, it all depends on the individual patient’s problems and whether he or she also has other conditions. Still, taijin kyofusho is known to the Japanese, but not in the West.

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