What Is Social Phobia?
Social phobia, also called social anxiety disorder, involves overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. People with social phobia have an intense, and persistent fear of being watched and judged by others and being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions. Some feel this so strongly that it interferes with work or school. Many people with social phobia recognize that their fear of being around people may be excessive or unreasonable, but they are unable to overcome it. They often worry for days or weeks in advance of a dreaded situation.
Social phobia can be limited to only one type of situation — such as a fear of speaking in public, or eating, drinking, or writing in front of others. (Most of us have some fear of speaking in public, and this alone does not constitute social phobia.) In its most severe form, may be so broad that a person experiences symptoms almost anytime they are around other people. Social phobia can be debilitating. It may even keep people from going to work or school on some days. Many people with this illness have a hard time making and keeping friends.
What Symptoms often accompany the intense anxiety of social phobia?
- profuse sweating
- difficulty talking.
If you suffer from social phobia, you may be embarrassed by these symptoms and you may feel feel as though all eyes are focused on you. You may be afraid of being with people other than your family. You may be aware that your feelings are irrational. Even if you manage to confront what you fear, you probably feel very anxious beforehand and you may be intensely uncomfortable the whole time. Afterward, the unpleasant feelings may linger, as you worry about how you performed.
NIMH estimates that social phobia affects about 5.3 million adult Americans. Women and men are equally likely to develop social phobia. The disorder usually begins in childhood or early adolescence, and it can run in families. Social phobia often occurs along with other anxiety disorders or depression. People with social phobia may self-medicate with drugs or alcohol in an attempt to relax. Social phobia can be treated successfully with psychotherapy and/or medications.
Social phobia can severely disrupt normal life, interfering with school, work, or social relationships. The dread of a feared event can begin weeks in advance and be quite debilitating.