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Social Phobia in Adults

What Is Social Phobia?

Social Phobia is the fear of one or more social situations. Commonly feared situations include public speaking, meeting new people, being at parties, asking for dates, eating in public, using public restrooms, speaking to people in authority, and disagreeing with others.

People with social phobia are afraid they will act in ways that will make other people think badly of them. They often fear that others will see some sign of anxiety, such as blushing, trembling, or sweating. People with social phobia usually try to stay away from the situations that make them anxious. When they cannot, they tend to feel very anxious or embarrassed. Sometimes they may have panic attacks. Social phobia is a severe, disabling form of shyness and can cause problems in people’s lives. Sometimes the problems are minor, such as not being able to speak up in class. Sometimes, however, the problems can be very serious. People with severe social phobia often have few friends, feel lonely, and have trouble reaching their goals in school or at work.

Who Gets Social Phobia?

Social Phobia is very common. More than one out of eight people will suffer from social phobia at some point in their lives. May people have symptoms of shyness that are not severe e enough to be called social phobia. Social phobia is twice as common for women as for men. However, men as more likely to try and to find help for the problem. Social phobia usually starts when people are in their early teens, but it can begin much earlier. If people do not get help, the problem can last for years.

What Causes Social Phobia?

The exact causes of social phobia are not known. However, several things are believed to contribute to the problem:

  • Genetics. People with social phobia often have relatives who are shy or have social phobia.
  • Prior experiences. Many people with social phobia remember having been embarrassed 9r humiliated in the past. This leads them to be afraid that the same thing will happen again. Soon they start avoiding social situations. Over time, this tends to make them feel even more afraid.
  • Negative thinking. People with social phobia often have negative automatic thoughts about what will happen in social situations. Common thoughts are “I won’t be able to think of anything to say,” “I’ll make a fool of myself,” and “People will see I’m anxious”. They also tend to have standards that are hard to meet, such as “I should never be anxious,” “You have to be beautiful and smart to be liked,” or “I have to get everyone’s approval”. Often they have negative beliefs about themselves, such as “I’m boring,” “I’m weird”, or “I’m different from other people”.
  • Lack of social skills. Some people with social phobia never had the chance to learn social skills. This can cause them to have problems in social situations. Other people with this disorder have good social skills, but they get so anxious that they have a hard time using them.

What Is Expected Of You as a Patient?

Many people feel anxious at the beginning of therapy and wonder whether they can be helped. All you have to do is to be willing to give therapy a try. Your therapist will teach you things you can do to help yourself and ask you practice them between sessions. Early exercises will be quiet easy, but they will become more challenging as you feel more comfortable. The more you work on these exercises, the more likely it is that your social phobia will get better.


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