Social Phobia or Social Anxiety

It is perfectly normal to feel nervous in social situations where we could be under the attention of others, whether they are strangers or people we know.

Attending a formal function, giving a speech at a wedding, making a presentation to co-workers is likely to cause nervousness and anxiety, both in preparation and during the event.

What is social phobia?

However, for people with social phobia (sometimes known as social anxiety disorder), performing in front of others and social situations can lead to intense anxiety. They may fear being judged, criticized, ridiculed or humiliated in front of others, even in the most ordinary and everyday situations.

For example, the prospect of eating in front of others at a restaurant can be daunting for some people with social phobia.

Social phobia can occur in the run-up to or during hospitalization:

  • performance situations (such as having to give a speech or be watched while doing something at work)
  • situations that involve social interaction (such as having a meal with friends or having a little chat).

Social phobia can also be specific; where people fear a specific situation or a few situations related to a specific fear (such as being assertive at work or with their friends).

What are the signs and symptoms of social phobia?

What are the signs and symptoms of social phobia?

Common symptoms of social anxiety include physical and psychological symptoms. Physical symptoms that can be particularly distressing for people with social phobia include:

  • excessive perspiration
  • temblor
  • blushes or stutters when trying to speak
  • nausea or diarrhea.

These physical symptoms often cause more anxiety, as the person fears that others will notice, even though these signs are usually barely noticeable to those around them.

People with social phobia also worry excessively that they will do or say the wrong thing and that something terrible will happen as a result.

People with social phobia try to avoid situations in which they fear acting in a humiliating or embarrassing way. If avoidance is not possible, they endure the situation but may become extremely anxious and distressed and may try to get out of the situation as soon as they can. This can have a serious negative effect on your personal relationships, your professional life, and your ability to carry out your daily routine.

A diagnosis of social phobia is based on having typical symptoms, causing significant distress or impaired daily functioning, and the symptoms are persistent, for example, for at least six months.

List of symptoms

Have you felt very nervous or embarrassed when faced with situations or social events? For instance:

  • meet strangers
  • being watched (for example, eating, drinking, talking on the phone, or writing in front of others)
  • performing in front of others

Have you avoided a situation because of your phobia? For example, you:

  • have not been to certain interactions or events
  • Has it been difficult for you to go about your daily life (for example, working, studying, or seeing friends and family) because you are trying to avoid such situations?

If the answer is yes, you may be experiencing social phobia

How common is social phobia and who experiences it?

How common is social phobia and who experiences it?

Research suggests that nearly 11% of the Australian population experiences social phobia during their lifetime, and that just under 5% experience social phobia in any 12-month period. More women than men seem to develop the disorder.1 The condition often begins in childhood or adolescence.

What Causes Social Phobia?

There are a number of causes of social phobia, including:

  • Temperament – Teens who are shy or socially inhibited are particularly at risk. Clingy behavior, shyness, easy crying, and excessive shyness can indicate temperaments in children that could put them at risk of developing social phobia.
  • Family history – Social phobia can run in the family, in part due to a possible genetic predisposition.
  • Learned behavior / environment – Some people with social phobia attribute the development of the condition to being publicly abused, embarrassed, or humiliated (for example, being bullied at school).

What treatments are available for social phobia?

Social phobia is treatable and seeking professional support is the first step to recovery. There are two main types of effective treatments for social phobia; psychological treatments will generally be the first line of treatment. In some severe cases, medication can also be effective.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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