We live in a society and therefore we are constantly communicating with other human beings. Society makes us human, but at the same time makes us vulnerable to experiencing fears or difficulties on a psychological level.
Taijin Kyofusho Syndrome (TKS) is a classified disorder in Japanese and Korean cultures that has to do precisely with social relationships. It is not that it is a disorder that cannot appear in other cultures, but in these countries it has been described and classified under this name. A person with Taijin Kyogusho has an irrational and enormous fear or fear of embarrassing or offending other people with his actions or words. That is, it is a type of phobia of harming other people.
With this definition we can think that it is the Asian version of what in Spain or other Western countries is considered “social phobia”. However, there is an essential difference that is that in social phobia the person is afraid of doing something that is embarrassing to himself and being judged by others and, in Taijin Kyogusho, the person is afraid of doing something that it may offend other people or make them feel bad. This difference may arise because in Asia the culture of shame is much greater; However, in other Western countries, the feeling of guilt usually weighs more.
This weight of culture has made this disorder different in Asia, however, Taijin Kyofusho has not been described in Western diagnostic manuals. Despite this, “in consultations, variants of this syndrome are sometimes seen”, as indicated by Sonia González, director of the psychology consultation Psyfeel online and in Salamanca. “In fact, this nuance usually appears in people who suffer from a generalized social phobia or, for example, a phobia of speaking in public. Sometimes they are not only phobic about making a fool of themselves and feel bad for having made a fool of themselves, but they are also worried that other people will have a hard time seeing how they make a fool of themselves”.
The symptoms are not very different from those experienced by a person with another anxiety disorder. On the one hand, on an emotional level there is a strong fear and shame. Other feelings may also appear, such as guilt, or self-hatred and disappointment.
On a physical level, anxiety-type symptoms also appear, for example, heart palpitations, sweating, flushing, a feeling of nervousness or hyperventilation. Somatizations may also appear in social situations, that is, physical problems due to psychological discomfort and without an organic cause. For example, it may be that your head or back hurts, without there being any physical problem in these areas.
Likewise, cognitive or thinking symptoms appear. Mainly irrational ideas of embarrassing another or negative thoughts about oneself appear.
Finally, these symptoms cause so much discomfort that those who suffer from Taijin Kyofusho tend to avoid or escape from social situations, isolating themselves and becoming a more lonely person.
Types of Taijin Kyofusho
Although Taijin Kyofusho is broadly defined as a phobia in social relationships, several types have been differentiated based on some small differences. In this sense, the phobia of blushing (sekimen-kyofu), the phobia of perceiving a deformity in the face or body (shubo-kyofu), the phobia of emitting a bad odor (jiko-shu-kyofu) and the phobia of eye contact (jiko-shisen-kyofu).
Causes of Taijin Kyofusho
A specific cause of this syndrome has not been determined. However, it is possible that it is a combination of various circumstances that come together in the person. On the one hand, it is understandable that this problem has been identified in Asian culture, since it is a much more individualistic and less collective society, which makes people more reserved and self-conscious with the rest.
Likewise, this culture also expresses a lot of personal demands on Asians, which makes them tend to be more perfectionists and want to show themselves better than the rest.
On the other hand, other variables may have an influence, such as the more introverted personality, the few opportunities for social interaction that the person may have had, or some traumatic situations experienced during their childhood. In line with the latter, if someone has been marginalized or criticized in social situations, it is possible that they end up developing a phobic fear of relating to people.
Treatment for Taijin Kyofusho
Being an anxiety disorder, it can be treated in a similar way to other problems of this nature. One of the most widely used therapies is cognitive-behavioral, focused on changing thoughts and behaviors. Some of the most used techniques in anxiety disorders are exposure therapy or cognitive restructuring.
However, in Asia, Dr. Morin, who defined and classified this syndrome, proposed in 1910 a treatment called morita therapy (taijin kyofusho), based on temporary isolation and bed rest, writing a personal diary and of extremity movement exercises and listening to lectures on self-acceptance as a preparation to “return to society”. It is a zen-type therapy, which refers to the fact that you have to accept things as they are, according to their condition. However, around 1930 a kind of group therapy began, called Morita neotherapy.
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