What is Social Phobia and do I have it?

Most people feel shy at some point in time, and usually it is an emotion that we find slightly endearing in others. If we never felt any shyness we would become brash and appear to be arrogant, overconfident, and superior.
In Social Phobia people become deeply anxious about the natural symptoms of shyness and worry and about how others view them. They become convinced they will be highly embarrassed and humiliated in any social or performance situation. One important part of the diagnosis of social phobia is that the anxiety associated with these social and performance situations, and this fear of humiliation leads to avoidance of such situations.

Social phobia can be a general fear of all or some social situations but can also be more specific. A fear of public speaking is probably the world’s most common phobia, leading in extreme cases to people refusing promotions and even changing professions.

Another aspect of the phobia involves the sufferer being unable to eat in public, fearing that they will choke on, splutter, spill or spit out their food, or that they will be unable to swallow it. Other people fear working or writing in public, being watched or using public toilets.

How common is social phobia?

Very common. Those diagnosed with social phobia, i.e. those that have a phobia which interrupts their social life, could number as many as 1 in 20 in the western world.

Do I have Social Phobia?

Many people are a little bit shy or unconfident amongst new people, and there’s nothing wrong with that. For some people, however, shyness and worry can take over and become very debilitating. This is social phobia.

They find themselves worrying that they are the centre of attention, that everyone is staring at them and watching what they are doing. They may find it difficult or impossible to talk to colleagues or shop assistants, to go to busy places like swimming pools and restaurants, and to make friends and lasting relationships. Confronting people such as an unfair boss or belligerent traffic warden may be out of the question.

For some these feelings of social phobia culminate in a panic attack, for others there is just a lasting sense of uneasiness. In extreme cases it can lead to depression but doesn’t always by any means. If you think this could be you and that you have social phobia you should speak to your doctor and consider tackling it using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. There will probably be a local support group and there are also some books worth reading.

What’s the prognosis?

Very good. There are many treatments available and a referral from your doctor is probably the best place to start. Your treatment is likely to include some of: CBT, assertiveness training, relaxation techniques and may or may not include a drug therapy depending on severity and your doctor or therapists position in the great drugs debate.

Alternative Therapies?

Therapies  such as TFT/EFT Tapping and Hypnosis claim to cure Social Phobia very quickly. Is it true? Well, in some cases it has been known to work, but this is likely down to the placebo effect. If you have the financial resources and an open mind you might want to try them.

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