Social Phobia

Many people get nervous or self-conscious on or before a big occasion, such as giving a speech in front of a large group or interviewing for a new job. However, these are common symptoms of generalized anxiousness.

Social Phobia, also known as Social Anxiety Disorder, is more than just shyness or occasional nerves. Social phobia is a persistent and irrational fear of situations that may involve scrutiny or judgment by others, such as parties and other social events. If you have social anxiety disorder, your fear of embarrassing yourself is so deeply intense that you may go to great lengths to avoid situations that would trigger it.

Symptoms of Social Phobia Disorder

Although many people with social phobia realize that their fears about being with people are excessive or unreasonable, they are unable to overcome them on their own.

Exposure to social situations can produce a variety of uncontrollable physical symptoms including:

  • Sweating
  • Blushing
  • Muscle tension
  • Pounding heart
  • Dry mouth
  • Shaky voice
  • Trembling

Emotional and behavioral signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:

  • Intense fear of being in situations in which you don’t know people
  • Fear of situations in which you may be judged
  • Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
  • Fear that others will notice that you look anxious
  • Anxiety that disrupts your daily routine, work, school or other activities
  • Avoiding doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment
  • Avoiding situations where you might be the center of attention

Causes of Social Phobia

Like many other mental health conditions, social anxiety disorder likely arises from a complex interaction of environment and genes. Researchers have suggested that social anxiety disorder tends to run in families, but evidence suggests that the hereditary component of this condition is due at least in part to anxious behavior learned from other family members.

Researchers are also exploring the idea that natural chemicals in your body may play a role in social anxiety disorder. For instance, an imbalance in serotonin levels could be a contributing factor of social anxiety disorder. Lastly, some research suggests that a structure in the brain called the amygdala may play a role in controlling the fear response. People who have an overactive amygdala may have a heightened fear response, causing increased anxiety in social situations.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to help individuals function positively and effectively in social situations. Anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications are sometimes used to help relieve the symptoms associated with phobias.

In addition to medication, different types of behavioral treatment have been proven to be successful in treating individuals who suffer from Social Phobia. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients understand and change the thoughts that are causing their condition, by replacing panic-causing thoughts with positive thinking.

Systematic desensitization or exposure therapy may also be used to treat phobias. During this particular type of treatment, the patient is asked to relax, then imagine the things that cause the anxiety, working from the least fearful to the most fearful.

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