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Top Ten Social Phobia Facts

written by: alexisaiger • edited by: jen2008 • updated: 8/23/2010

If you suffer from social phobia you may feel overwhelmed as you try to make sense of your disorder. The top ten social phobia facts can help you understand social phobia and learn what needs to be done to help you overcome it.

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    Prevalence

    The first of the top ten social phobia facts relates to how common social phobia truly is. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 15 million American adults suffer from social phobia. The disorder generally begins in childhood or early adolescence and affects men and women equally. Though you may feel alone with your disorder, you certainly are not.

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    Emotional and Behavioral Symptoms

    According to MayoClinic.com, social phobia includes feeling fearful or anxious in social situations where you do not know others, where you think others will notice your anxiety or where you believe others will judge you. You may avoid talking to others and avoid situations where you are the center of attention. Though you may know these fears are irrational, the fears still interfere with your daily life.

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    Physical Symptoms

    Some physical symptoms accompanying social phobia include blushing, sweating, trembling and nausea, according to MayoClinic.com. Your stomach may become upset, your muscles may tense and you may experience heart palpitations. You may also have difficulty talking to others or your voice may shake when speaking. Additionally, you may find it difficult to make or maintain eye contact.

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    Role of Genetics

    According to the TeensHealth website, genes you inherit can help determine how your brain reacts to anxiety, shyness, nervousness and stress. Some people are also born with a tendency to be shy and cautious in new situations, creating a predisposition to developing social phobia.

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    Role of Learned Behaviors

    Children learn behaviors from parents or other important role models through observation. If a child is naturally shy and is raised by parents who are also shy, the child may learn that social situations are uncomfortable, a cause for distress and should be avoided, according to the TeensHealth website.

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    Role of Life Experiences

    According to the TeensHealth website, if a naturally shy person feels pressured to take part in social situations where she is not comfortable or where she is criticized, her chance of developing social phobia increases. If she is regularly made fun of or experiences disapproving reactions, she may learn to expect others to judge her harshly and if she is teased or bullied in school, a naturally shy person is likely to become even more shy and withdrawn. Rather than being judged, she may become hyper-sensitive to criticism and avoid social situations entirely.

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    Comorbidity

    According to the National Institute of Mental Health, social phobia often co-occurs with other anxiety disorders, depression and substance abuse disorders as some who suffer from social anxiety try to self-medicate.

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    Treatment

    According to MayoClinic.com, 75 percent of people report that symptoms of social phobia improve with cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy focuses on the individual's thoughts, teaching you to recognize and change negative reactions to social situations. This therapy may also include exposure exercises where you put yourself in uncomfortable social situations to learn to cope with the anxiety and develop confidence. In addition to therapy, your mental health professional may prescribe medication. According to MayoClinic.com, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, benzodiazepines, anti-depressants and beta blockers effectively treat symptoms of social phobia.

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    Lifestyle Changes

    Caffeine, nicotine and a lack of sleep all increase your level of anxiety, while alcohol increases your chance of experiencing an anxiety attack. To support your treatment avoid or reduce your caffeine consumption, drink alcohol only in moderation, quit smoking and get enough sleep, advises HelpGuide.org.

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    Prognosis

    The last of the top ten social phobia facts is perhaps the most encouraging. The prognosis for those who suffer from social phobia is good. Cognitive behavioral therapy, in particular, has shown a high amount of success according to the Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Association. Commit to therapy and dedicate yourself to overcoming social phobia and you will soon find yourself able to cope with social situations that once made you anxious and fearful.

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