Social anxiety disorder

Psychological disorders / Category / Emile Du Toit / May 9th 2014

What is social phobia?

Social phobia is also called social anxiety disorder. It is diagnosed when people become overwhelmingly anxious and excessively self-conscious in everyday social situations.

People with social phobia have an intense, persistent and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and of doing things that will embarrass them. They can worry for days or weeks before a dreaded situation. This fear may become so severe that it interferes with work or school, or other ordinary activities, and can make it hard to make and keep friends.

Social phobia can be limited to one situation (such as talking to people, eating or drinking, or writing on a blackboard in front of others) or may be so broad (such as in generalized social phobia) that the person experiences anxiety around almost anyone other than their family.

Social phobia can be hard to overcome without help

While many people with social phobia realize that their fears about being with people are excessive or unreasonable, they are unable to overcome them. Even if they manage to confront their fears and be around others, they are usually very anxious beforehand, are intensely uncomfortable throughout the encounter, and worry about how they were judged for hours afterwards.

Physical symptoms of social anxiety disorder

Physical symptoms that often accompany social phobia include the following:

  • blushing
  • profuse sweating
  • trembling
  • nausea
  • difficulty speaking

  • When these symptoms occur, people with social phobia feel as though all eyes are focused on them.

    Co-morbidity for social anxiety disorder

    Social phobia is often accompanied by other anxiety disorders or depression, and substance abuse may develop if people try to self-medicate their anxiety.

    What causes social phobia?

    There is some evidence that both environmental and genetic factors are involved social anxiety. Women and men are equally likely to develop the disorder, which usually begins in childhood or early adolescence.

    Treatment for social phobia

    Social phobia can be successfully treated with certain kinds of psychotherapy or medications. Research has shown that CBT is effective as a frontline treatment for social phobia.

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