How to get over your 'swimsuit shyness'; expert weighs in

Have you ever hesitated before accepting an invite to a beach or pool party simply because you don't want to be seen in a swimsuit?

If you're thinking yes, you're not alone.

In a recent poll, 20 percent of respondents admitted to not putting on a swimsuit in more than 10 years. Is swimsuit shyness a real issue?

"I was surprised the number was that high," said Dr. Mike Schoenberg, a neuropsychologist at the University of South Florida who studies all things about the brain and human behavior. "It's not a clinical diagnosis, but it appears enough individuals out there are so ashamed of how they look in a bathing suit that they're just not getting out there and going to the beach or the pool and engaging in family activities."

Swimsuit shyness is not just limited to issues of weight. Schoenberg said shyness in public crosses the line to unhealthy behavior and possibly needs treatment when your obsession starts affecting your quality of life. 

"There is a diagnosis called body dysmorphic disorder that takes it to another level," he said. "Individuals with body dysmorphic disorder perceive one or several flaws in their body image, whether real or imagined, that are so severe that they obsess on it for hours to days.  They avoid doing social activities, they may be homebound.  Often those individuals may experience other kinds of psychiatric syndromes like an eating disorder, excessive working out, or other kinds of anxiety or depressive disorders."

Schoenberg said the first step to getting over your shyness is to stop focusing on other people.

"We all may look to Allure magazine for a reference or something like that, but if you look at 100 people at the beach or going out, the body types are all different sizes, heights, weight," he said.

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