The comical sight of a man in cut-off jeans screaming in fear of being, in his eyes, entirely naked may be a page taken straight out of a hit Hollywood TV show, but it’s also based off a real phobia that affects real people, too.
The phobia described is gymnophibia, a fear of being naked in private or in public that’s spoofed for laughs by the fictional character of Tobias Funke in program Arrested Development.
Tobias personally refers to it as ‘never-nude’ while insisting to wear his cut-off jeans wherever he goes. Wherever.
‘There are people who are not comfortable being naked in front of other people — and there are other people who are not comfortable looking at themselves naked,’ Martin Antony, professor of psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto told NBC News of the phobia.
Gymnophobia, according to MedicineNet.com, is further described as ‘an abnormal and persistent fear of nudity. Sufferers of this phobia experience undue anxiety even though they realize their fear is irrational. They may worry about seeing others naked or being seen naked, or both.’
In Tibias’ case, he can’t shower without being partially clothed, strip down at the doctor’s office, and he even refuses to allow his own wife to see him stripped down to his birthday suit.
‘Most people are not “never-nudes,” but they are “not-usually-nudes,” said Antony, who authored a book called The Anti-Anxiety Workbook. ‘A lot of people would feel somewhat self-conscious about being naked.’
Causes for the fear are usually linked to negative experiences, according to doctors.
Some have been bullied while naked or partially clothed, others sexually assaulted or abused, and some are bullying themselves due to critical self-image.
That’s one reason psychology professor Frank Farley of Temple University particularly blames the phobia, as he tells NBC.
‘[It’s] more a general anxiety of their own body image as a comparative basis,’ he said.
‘We are an increasingly obese nation so the comparison could be stressful, anxiety producing, negative for one’s self-concept and could affect one’s own willingness to expose one’s self in privacy in a relationship.’