Social phobia, also known as social anxiety, is a debilitating psychological disorder characterized by extreme anxiousness in social situations. Social phobia may be generalized or specific to certain social situations, and often requires professional help to overcome.
What is Social Phobia?
Social phobia, also known as social anxiety disorder, affects approximately 15 million American adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Social phobia pertains to an intense and debilitating fear of social situations. If you suffer from social phobia you often feel excessively judged, avoiding social situations due to a fear of being judged negatively or being embarrassed. You may recognize the feelings of fear as exaggerated, but still cannot help the anxiousness that accompanies social situations. Social phobia goes beyond normal nervousness and shyness and may interfere with work, school, relationships and other everyday activities.
What is Social Phobia? A Look at Symptoms
Social phobia includes physical symptoms as well as emotional symptoms. If you suffer from social phobia you may blush, sweat or tremble during social situations. You may also feel nauseous, tense or confused and have difficulty making eye contact with others. These physical symptoms of social anxiety can be misinterpreted by others and embarrass you further as you feel certain others notice your physical symptoms. Those suffering from social phobia often suffer from low self-esteem, hypersensitivity to criticism and poor social skills.
Generalized Social Phobia
Generalized social phobia refers to those individuals suffering from extreme anxiety in most social situations. If you suffer from generalized social phobia you have difficulty meeting or being introduced to new people, find it difficult to go shopping or to restaurants, find it difficult to talk on the phone to strangers and have difficulty being assertive. You worry that people are watching you and judging your every move, making it difficult to enjoy any social situation. Social situations provoking anxiety need not be limited to unfamiliar situations or environments. You may feel anxious at work as you worry about how your co-workers feel about you or while having dinner with the family as you fear saying the wrong thing.
Specific Social Phobia
Unlike generalized social phobia, if you suffer from specific social phobia you can socialize and mingle with others without problem. However, when confronted with certain social situations feelings of anxiousness persist. Specific social phobias often occur when you are, or feel like you are, the center of attention. You may feel fine at parties with unfamiliar people where you blend into the crowd, but feel excessively anxious when you become the main focus of someone's attention.
Other examples of specific social phobia include presenting symptoms of anxiety in other settings, such as when talking to strangers on the phone or speaking in public.
Common Social Phobias
Specific situations often provoke anxiety in people suffering from social phobia. Common triggers include:
- Meeting new people
- Going on dates
- Making small talk
- Performing in front of others
- Speaking in public
- Communicating with authority figures
- Taking tests
- Being called on in class or in meetings
- Being watched
- Eating or drinking publicly
- Using public restrooms
- Being teased
- Attending parties or other social gatherings