Fear of Being the Center of Attention

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Fear of attention is common for quite a few people, particularly for those with social anxiety disorder (SAD). Although avoiding the limelight might feel like a good strategy to control your anxiety, in the long run, you are teaching yourself that you can't handle being in the spotlight.

Effective treatments and strategies are available that can help you get over your fear of being the center of attention. If your fear is related to social anxiety disorder, getting treatment for your condition is an important step toward overcoming this fear.

What Causes Fear of Attention

There are a few different factors that can contribute to the fear of being the center of attention. It is often related to social anxiety disorder, but other people can also experience this fear as well.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is characterized by an excessive fear of social situations. Sometimes this involves being afraid of specific social situations, such as speaking or performing in front of other people. In other cases, people fear being around others altogether.

People who have this condition often experience an exaggerated sense of feeling under the spotlight. In other words, they sometimes feel like they are the center of attention, even when they are not. This sense of being constantly scrutinized and found wanting causes people to become self-conscious and often very self-critical.

If you or a loved one are struggling with social anxiety disorder, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.


Scopophobia is an extreme and excessive fear of being stared at or looked at. People may experience feelings of discomfort when others look at them to a certain degree, but this phobia is much more intense.

People often fear that others are scrutinizing them much more intensely than they actually are. Those who have scopophobia may have an extreme fear of being the center of attention where they are likely to be looked at by others.

Negative Experiences

Negative experiences can also shape the development of this fear. Bullying and criticism can cause people to become fearful of being noticed and verbally attacked. Being embarrassed in public or during a performance might also contribute to the fear of attention.

In order to prevent future discomfort and distress, people may try to avoid any situation that might make them the center of attention. 

Impact of Fearing Attention

If you have a fear of being the center of attention, it can have a serious impact on your life. It can make it difficult to succeed in situations that might require you to stand out and it often results in avoidance of any type of social attention.

  • Limit activities: It can prevent you from participating in activities you enjoy. This can make it difficult to lead a fulfilling life and enjoy the things that make your life satisfying.
  • Affect work and school: It can make it difficult to succeed in school or at work. This fear can make it hard to speak up in class, ask for help, or participate in group projects. You may pass up chances to excel academically or professionally because you don't want to draw attention to yourself.
  • Interfere with relationships: It can make it hard to maintain healthy relationships. The fear of attention may become so severe that you withdraw from those who are closest to you.
  • Missed opportunities: It can also cause you to miss out on important opportunities. You might not take risks that could lead to new experiences or personal growth.
  • Additional anxiety: This fear can also lead to feelings of anxiety and depression. Avoiding social situations because of this fear actually causes the fear and anxiety to worsen over time.
  • Social isolation: It can cause you to withdraw from social activities and become isolated and lonely.

Treatment for Anxiety

Treatment for the fear of being the center of attention usually focuses on addressing some of the underlying thoughts that contribute to feelings of anxiety. In many cases, gradual exposure to attention can also be helpful.

Exposure Therapy

Gradually introducing yourself into situations in which others are focused on you will help you overcome your fears. This process is known as exposure therapy and is usually one part of a cognitive-behavioral treatment program.

You can also practice exposures as part of a self-help regimen. The idea is to create a list of feared situations ranging from the least anxiety-provoking to the most anxiety-provoking. Slowly, you progress through the list, staying in each situation long enough to lessen your anxiety and overcome your fears.

It is important not to use partial avoidance strategies or safety behaviors when practicing exposures. An example of this would be telling someone your opinion but doing it in a quiet voice that you can't be heard. If you are going to engage in these situations, you need to fully experience the anxiety that arises and then subsides.

In addition to practicing in real life, you can also "try out" situations in your imagination. This is a good way to get started and can have an impact on how you handle them in reality.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This type of therapy can help you change how you think about situations that make you anxious. You'll learn to identify and challenge the negative thoughts that contribute to your fear. It can also help you develop healthy coping skills.

CBT helps people identify and change the irrational beliefs that are often the root of anxiety. This includes negative thoughts about your abilities and feelings of embarrassment about social situations. It can also help you change mistaken beliefs that others are judging you.

Studies have found that CBT can be a highly effective treatment for social anxiety. This approach to treatment can also be delivered over the internet via online therapy. This can be a helpful option for people with social anxiety since they may fear speaking to a therapist face-to-face.


Medications may also be prescribed to help address symptoms of anxiety. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), benzodiazepines, and beta-blockers are some that are most commonly prescribed for anxiety.

Ways to Cope With Being the Center of Attention

In addition to seeking professional treatment, there are also self-help strategies you can utilize to help you cope with this fear. Such strategies can help you relax and manage your feelings of fear in the moment.

Practice Relaxation Strategies

Try some relaxation techniques to help you calm down when you're feeling fear or anxiety. Examples of relaxation strategies include:

  • Deep breathing: This can help slow your heart rate and ease tension in your body.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: This involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in your body.
  • Visualization: This involves picturing a calm and relaxing scene in your mind.
  • Mindfulness meditation: This involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment.
  • Yoga: This can help you relax both physically and mentally.

Expose Yourself to Your Fears

Slowly exposing yourself to attention from others can also be a helpful way to reduce feelings of fear. Doing the things you fear, including making mistakes in social situations, can help show you that the things you fear aren't as serious as you imagined them to be.

You can do this by making a list of situations that provoke fear, starting with the smallest and working your way up to the situations that you fear the most.

Below is a list of potential items for your fear hierarchy related to being the center of attention. Remember to tailor this list to your particular situation and make sure to order the items so that the easiest ones come first.

  1. Wear something flashy. Wear something that makes you stand out in a crowd.
  2. Spill your food. Instead of being afraid to shake and spill your food, do it on purpose.
  3. Knock something over in a store. Pretend to fumble and knock over a food display in a grocery store.
  4. Stumble over your words. Are you afraid to trip over your words? Do it on purpose and jumble what you are trying to say.
  5. Make a phone call in front of people. Instead of waiting to be alone to make a phone call, do it in front of other people.
  6. Talk loudly. When you make a phone call, talk loud enough so that everyone in earshot can hear you.
  7. Offer your opinion about a hot topic. If everyone is discussing a movie or current event, offer your opinion to the group.
  8. Answer a question in class. If you are a student, put your hand up and offer an answer the next time your teacher asks the class a question.
  9. Participate in a sport. Take part in a sport that will require you to be the center of attention some of the time, such as baseball, volleyball, or horseshoes.
  10. Play a game. Play a party game or card game such as Trivial Pursuit or Euchre.

If you find that your anxiety is severe or that you are unable to face these types of situations at all, you should consider contacting your doctor or a mental health professional for diagnosis and a treatment plan.

Change How You Interpret Anxiety

Changing your perspective can also be helpful. This involves reappraising the situation so instead of seeing situations as anxiety-provoking, you see them as exciting opportunities. 

  • Focus on the positive: Rather than concentrate on what might go wrong, try to think about what can go right. When you find yourself the center of attention, remember your talents and focus on the people there to support you.
  • Think about your intentions: Another way to take your mind off your anxiety is to focus on what you are doing instead of how you are feeling. Why are you doing this? What is your goal? For example, if you're giving a presentation, your intention might be to inform and educate your audience.
  • Consider the benefits: What are the potential benefits of this situation? For example, if you're attending a networking event, you might gain valuable connections.
  • Focus on your strengths: What are you good at? What skills do you have that can help you in this situation? For example, if you're attending a job interview, focus on your qualifications and experience.

A Word From Verywell

It's also important to remember that everyone feels anxiety at times. This is perfectly normal and it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you. Feeling fear doesn't mean you're weak or flawed.

Everyone experiences anxiety in different ways and to different degrees. What matters is how you manage your fear. Taking steps to address your anxieties over being the center of attention can help ensure that you aren't missing out on important opportunities in life.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is scopophobia?

    Scopophobia is a type of specific phobia that involves the fear of being stared at. It can vary in terms of severity, from being afraid of scrutiny from strangers to even making eye contact with loved ones. While not always the case, it is frequently associated with social anxiety disorder.

  • How do you deal with the fear of attention when giving a speech?

    Strategies that can help include being well-prepared, practicing your speech beforehand, and visualizing yourself succeeding. Deep breathing can also be helpful for calming your body in the moment. As you give your speech, concentrate on the material you are presenting rather than what you think the audience is doing or thinking.

  • How do you overcome the fear of attention?

    Self-help strategies such as deep breathing, visualization, and gradually exposing yourself to your fears can be helpful. If your fear is connected to social anxiety, it is important to get professional treatment. Exposure therapy, CBT, and medication can be very effective for reducing social fears and improving your quality of life.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. American Psychological Association. What is exposure therapy? Clinical Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

  5. Kaczkurkin AN, Foa EB. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders: An update on the empirical evidenceDialogues Clin Neurosci. 2015;17(3):337-46. PMID:26487814

  6. Fang A, Sawyer A, Asnaani A, Hofmann S. Social mishap exposures for social anxiety disorder: An important treatment ingredientCogn Behav Pract. 2013;20(2):213-220. doi:10.1016/j.cbpra.2012.05.003

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By Arlin Cuncic, MA
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." She has a Master's degree in psychology.