In our society, physical beauty is an obsession. Men and women struggle to achieve faces and bodies that are as attractive and youthful as possible. Some might say that the fixation on outward appearance is an unhealthy symptom of a shallow cultural era.
However, the desire for a wrinkle-free appearance is nothing new, and it is here to stay. Plastic surgery and high-tech cosmetics have made it easier than ever to stave off time. Nothing works forever, though, and some people fear wrinkles to the point of phobia. When this happens, it is known as Rhytiphobia.
Why Fear Wrinkles?
There are many reasons why people fear wrinkles. Some of them are quite straighforward, and others are more complex. Throughout history, men and women have judged others by their outward appearance. In fact, in the times of smallpox, men and women would cover the pits and scars that resulted from the affliction with special beauty patches, cut into whimsical shapes. They would also take pains to hide the damage to their skin with lead-based powders that were actually poisonous.
The ideal of a fair, smooth skintone was sometimes tied into the idea that pale people were the elite. In this misguided mindset, fair skin was prized: it showed that the person who displayed it needed not work out of doors. They were above the hard life that comes from working in the sun and rain, day in and day out .
Sadly, this desire for pale, smooth skin has not been completely eradicated from society. There is still discrimination based on the fairness or darkness of one’s complexion.
For example, some societies still carry vestiges of this in their archaic caste systems, which tend to favor fair-skinned inidividuals. This is one more reason why some people strive to keep their skin smooth and pristine, and why they choose to avoid the sun, which causes wrinkles and tanning.
Today, in much of the world, all colors are skin are regarded as beautiful. However, people still prize smooth, unwrinkled skin that is fresh and youthful. In fact, it has been proven that people who appear very attractive, with good complexions that are unravaged by time, will have an easier time of it at work and better luck attracting a desirable mate.
The connection between vanity and the fear of wrinkles has a practical base. Women, in particular, can feel despondent over the signs of aging, as they are not viewed as “distinguished”, in the way that’s men’s are. They are simply viewed as unsightly.
Therefore, the billion dollar anti-wrinkle beauty industry pushes onward, warning women to protect and care for their skin with various formulas, some as effective as the proverbial snake oil. At great expense, women struggle to smooth their complexions, and endure painful injections and facelifts to avoid wrinkles. Men have become more likely to have these procedures as well.
Symptoms Of Fear Of Getting Wrinkles
Some people who have this phobia will become obsessive about avoiding sun exposure. They will go to a public beach shrouded in clothes and sun hats that protect their skin from photoaging. However, skin cancer is a real threat nowadays, and some people practice this preventative behavior to avoid melanoma as well.
Other people who fear getting wrinkles will spend hours in front of the mirror, obsessing about fine lines that may be barely noticeable to other people. Those who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) will see themselves as monstrous or repulsive due to their perceived flaws. They should consult a therapist in order to address the deeper insecurities that fuel their phobia about wrinkles.
If a person fears wrinkles in others, they will avoid the elderly and those who wear their wrinkles proudly. Some people are very comfortable in their own skin, even when it features smile lines and crow’s feet. Their sense of self is intact, and they realize their appearance is just one facet of their being. These people choose to embrace the very natural process of aging without cosmetic surgery or makeup. They may be off-putting to the person with Rhytiphobia.
Of course, the Rhytiphobic can always seek out plastic surgery, expensive creams, and other panaceas. This may easy their phobia temporarily. However, plastic surgery does not always solve everything, and it can look terrible if performed by an unskilled surgeon. The overly pulled, but smooth, faces of some older actresses should serve as a warning that these techniques are best be used in moderation.
Talking to a psychotherapist about issues with vanity and self-esteem is the best way to heal this phobia. Learning to love oneself with all the little lines and so on that come through a life of laughing, crying, and living, should be an attainable goal for most people with Rhytiphobia.