Social phobia is a common anxiety disorder in which a person feels deep fear of embarrassment or judgment in social situations, such as public speaking, performing, or a professional workshop/conference. Social phobia should not be confused with shyness or temporary anxiety about a specific event. People with social phobia feel chronic anxiety about certain situations, and without treatment social phobia can interfere with education, work and relationships.
Social Phobia Symptoms
Social phobia manifests itself with recurring emotional and physical symptoms that include but are not limited to:
- Fear of situations in which you may be judged or humiliated
- Anxiety about embarrassing yourself or offending someone else
- Anxiousness about interacting with others
- Avoidance of situations in which attention may be directed at you
- Self-consciousness around others
- Avoidance of eye contact with others
- Rapid heart rate in social situations
- Nausea prior to or during social events
- Muscle tension before and during a social experience
- Blushing, sweating or trembling around others
Most people with social phobia are aware that their anxiety is exaggerated in comparison to the realities of the social experiences that trigger symptoms, but feel unable to control their reactions.
Anxiety and Social Situations
Those with social phobia often try to avoid common experiences including:
- Using public restrooms
- Speaking in public
- Interacting with others, especially strangers
- Eating in front of others
- Attending parties or other group gatherings
- Making phone calls
Signs of social phobia often emerge during youth, and without treatment the effects of social phobia can persist indefinitely. If anxiety disrupts your daily life, it’s important to seek help.
CBT and Social Phobia
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most effective treatments for social phobia in that it provides long-term skills and strategies that are effective in helping individuals observe/alter negative thoughts about self, while promoting healthy social skills.
Treatment often consists of mindfulness and breathing exercises in addition to a hierarchical exposure to anxiety producing situations. Intervention is practical and time limited while concurrently fostering a sense of acceptance that anxiety may indeed show up from time to time.