Social Phobia (Anxiety)

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Social phobia is an intense fear of becoming humiliated in social situations, specifically of embarrassing yourself in front of other people. It often runs in families and often begins around early adolescence or even younger.

If you suffer from social phobia, you tend to think that other people are very competent in public and that you are not. Small mistakes you make may seem to you much more exaggerated than they really are.

Blushing itself may seem painfully embarrassing, and you feel as though all eyes are focused on you. You may be afraid of being with people other than those closest to you, or your fear may be more specific, such as feeling anxious about giving a speech, talking to a boss or other authority figure, or dating. The most common social phobia is a fear of public speaking. It also involves a general fear of social situations such as parties, more rarely it may involve a fear of using a public restroom, eating out, talking on the phone, or writing in the presence of other people, such as when signing a check.

Although this disorder is often thought of as shyness, the two are not the same. Shy people can be very uneasy around others, but they don’t experience the extreme anxiety in anticipating a social situation, and they don’t necessarily avoid circumstances that make them feel self-conscious, on the other hand people with social phobia aren’t necessarily shy at all. They can be completely at ease with people most of the time, but particular situations, such as walking down an aisle in public or making a speech, can give them intense anxiety.

Social phobia disrupts normal life, interfering with career or social relationships. For example, a worker can turn down a job promotion because he can’t give public presentations and the dread of a social event can begin weeks in advance, and symptoms can be quite debilitating.

People with social phobia are aware that their feelings are irrational, still they experience a great deal of dread before facing the feared situation, and they may go out of their way to avoid it. Even if they manage to confront what they fear, they usually feel very anxious beforehand and are intensely uncomfortable throughout. Afterwards, the unpleasant feelings may remain as they worry about how they may have been judged or what others may have thought or observed about them.

Problems Related to Social phobias:


Some people may have a difficult time believing that social phobia is a disease and not simply one of many personality types. For decades, this was how many people including health professionals, viewed social phobia. While it may at times be hard to determine where ordinary shyness stops and social phobia begins, mental health professionals have been gaining a new appreciation for how severely social anxiety can affect a person’s day-to-day living and related problems may consist of:

Consider how much of life requires being:

·         Out and about at the store

·         At the bank

·         Dry cleaners

·         Workplace 

·         Out with friends

·         At a movie theater

·         Restaurant or Party

Eliminate those occasions altogether from life, or fill them with unbearable anxiety, and living can turn painful.

In what can prove to be dangerous ways of coping, people with social phobia sometimes turn to alcohol or drugs. They are an estimated four times more likely than the general population to abuse alcohol. The use of alcohol or drugs may momentarily ease the nerves, but it can also develop into a dependency.


People with social phobia are at higher risk for dropping out of school, because the typical demands of an educational environment can seem overwhelming. There is the social scene of interacting with classmates, or the threat of being called upon to give an oral report. Additionally, tests can provoke disabling anxiety.


The world of work poses numerous challenges as well:


·         The process of landing a job is wrought with requirements that many people with social phobia find troubling.

·         Applying for work essentially is an invitation for an outsider to judge a person’s worthiness.

·          The employment interview, which often can prove to be more of a social rating than a job skill assessment.

·         Having survived the hiring process, most will then be faced with relating to colleagues at the coffee cart, business lunch or team project.

It is no wonder that in surveys, 90% of those with social phobia have said their disorder interfered significantly with occupational functioning. People with social phobia are also more likely to be single. This comes as no real surprise, given the social hurdles involved in seeking and developing romantic relationships.

Treatment of Social Phobia

As social phobia is considered to be a long-lasting chronic disorder, ongoing treatment generally is needed. Treatment often consists of a combination of medication and cognitive-behavior therapy.

1. Medication

Several medications are used now a day is effective in easing the symptoms of social phobia and for many people, the medication can lead to a significant lifting of symptoms within a few weeks.

2. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of psychotherapy. People with social anxiety are taught new ways of responding to situations that trigger fear and physical symptoms. The therapist helps the person learn how to make a more reasonable judgment of potentially embarrassing situations. Addressing inaccurate thinking helps decrease excessive fear of being judged by others. These changes in thinking patterns are combined with a gradual controlled exposure to anxiety-provoking situations.

About 80% of people who suffer from social phobia find relief from their symptoms when treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy or medications or a combination of the two, therapy may involve:

·   Learning to view social events differently

·   Being exposed to a seemingly threatening social situation in such a way that it becomes easier to face

·   Learning anxiety-reducing techniques, social skills and relaxation techniques


Do I Have Social Phobia?

Most people suffer from shyness or anxiety at some point in their lives, but are such feelings so persistent as to constitute a diagnosis of social phobia? Here are a few quick questions that can help determine whether or not a person’s fears necessitate further review by mental health professional.

1. Have you skipped classes because you were afraid that you would be called upon?

2. Does asking someone for a date seem impossible?

3. Have you not pursued a job because of the fear of going through the interview?

4. Have you turned down promotions because the new position would involve giving presentations in front of people?

5. Have you skipped social events or engagement due to persistent anxiety before the event?

For children, there are some additional considerations. These include the following:

1. There must be evidence of the capacity for age-appropriate social relationships with familiar people and the anxiety must occur in peer settings, not just in interactions with adults.

2. The anxiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, freezing or shrinking from social situations with unfamiliar people.

3. Children may not recognize their fear as excessive or unreasonable.

4. In those under 18, the symptoms must have lasted for at least 6 months.

Mental health professionals urge people who suspect they have a problem to seek treatment right away. With early intervention, there is hope that as quality-of-life improves, some of the problems related to social phobia can be avoided or reduced.

Never assumer: “Since when has shyness become something you see a doctor about?”


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