Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
Almost everyone experiences some nervousness in a new social situation or after doing something awkward in public like tripping. However, people with Social Phobia experience excessive nervousness whenever they are in social situations.
Unfamiliar people and situations are often the most feared, but some people continue to experience anxiety even after becoming accustomed to a situation or people. Some feel more anxious around people they know because they care what these people think about them more than if they were strangers. Situations that are perceived as involving public scrutiny are especially anxiety provoking (e.g., public speaking).
Individuals with social phobia experience anxiety almost every time they enter public situations. Some people experience panic symptoms or even a full-blown Panic Attack when entering or anticipating having to enter a social situation.
Due to the fear of possible embarrassment or negative evaluation by others, people often avoid social interactions or else endure intense anxiety or distress in such situations. Some of the more commonly feared social situations are:
• Public Speaking,
• Playing Sports,
• Singing or playing a musical instrument in front of others,
• Eating in public,
• Using public bathrooms,
• Writing or reading in front of others,
• Going to a party.
Performance anxiety is a common form of Social Phobia. However, social anxiety can generalize to a variety of social situations and result in significant social isolation. Such reclusiveness can often result in feelings of loneliness or even Depression.
Either during an event or afterward, the individual often over-analyzes every word, movement, thought, and physical response to the situation. People with Social Phobia often believe that their anxious reaction is evident to others and that they are being scrutinized on this basis.
Because social anxiety interferes with people's ability to objectively evaluate their performance their appraisals of themselves are often unrelated to how well they actually performed. People with social phobia often hold an exaggerated and overly-negative view of their performance. However, their anxiety about these negative perceptions can be elevated to the point where it actually does interfere with performance.
Other than children, people with Social Phobia are aware that their anxiety is excessive or unreasonable, but this insight is usually not enough to overcome the fear. People that are not aware of the unreasonableness of the belief that everyone is watching them, talking about them, or conspiring against them may be suffering from delusions and should consult a psychologist or psychiatrist for an assessment.
People with Social Phobia usually receive the greatest improvement with Cognitive Behavior Therapy which involves learning new ways of approaching social situations. People are taught to change the type of messages they tell themselves in social situations, rather than focusing on the belief that others are thinking badly of them. Although people must enter social situations that they are afraid of in order to get better, this is done in a systematic way so that the amount of anxiety experienced is at a manageable level. Newer treatment methods, such as mindfulness and acceptance are also helpful.