When you are embarrassed, you blush- the two things just naturally occur together. Sudden self-consciousness causes the natural flushing response and it’s typically overlooked.
Since blushing can be emotionally debilitating for some people, scientists have worked to better understand the physical process involved so that they can help sufferers alleviate the worst symptoms. The psychological side of blushing, however, remains a mystery.
Here are the physical reasons why we blush:
Your body’s sympathetic nervous system controls your fight-or-flight response to situations, and works instanteously and involuntarily. When you get embarrassed your body releases adrenaline, which is a natural stimulant- it speeds your heart rate and breathing, slows your digestive system, and enlarges your pupils. These effects all prepare your body to fight or run, and they account for the instant of shock you feel when you’re embarrassed.
The adrenaline release also dilates your blood vessels, called vasodilation, to improve oxygen and blood flow to the cells. This is what actually causes you to blush. Your facial veins respond to a signal which allows adrenaline to dilate the veins, increase the blood flow, and causing the red cheeks that show others you are embarrassed.
Of course, there are other ways that our cheeks become flushed as well: being in an overly warm environment, drinking alcohol, and sexual arousal. These forms of flushing are different, because blushing is only phenomenon caused by adrenaline.
So, why do we blush? Scientists can’t answer definitely, but there are some theories:
Psychologists in the United Kingdom have posited that blushing is one way of enforcing social systems that people have established over the years. Our blushing shows others that we know we’ve made a faux pas, and we are suffering for it. It serves as a physical, though non verbal request for forgiveness. The theory is that being embarrassed shows emotional intelligence, since in order to be embarrassed; you need to have empathy and intelligence to be able to feel how others do.
For a much more detailed guide to why people blush check out Blushing Breakthrough. Blushing is treatable.
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