Julie Miller's Mental Health Blog

“S” is for Social Phobia

Posted on: July 6, 2010

Social phobia is also known as “social anxiety.”  The primary symptoms are marked and persistent fear of social or performance situations in which you are exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others (DSM-IV p. 416).

Everyone gets nervous every now and then.  Some individuals are afraid of public speaking, so they join Toastmasters to overcome their fear, especially if their job requires they speak publically.

You might be a little anxious meeting new people, but you get through it, enjoy it, and make plans to hang out again.

A musician might feel nervous just before a concert, but once they get on stage and begin performing, the nerves calm.

Social phobia is an excessive or unreasonable fear of social or performance situations.

The fear may be so great that the individual cannot focus on anything but sweating palms or a pounding heart.  Perhaps he cannot focus on what others are saying, or can only think about what “they” are thinking of him.  And the assumption is that they are thinking poorly of him.

The fear may interfere with normal activities, routines, or other areas of functioning, such as work, family, school, etc.

He may begin to avoid these social or performance situations, increasing the impact of the anxiety on his life.

How is it that just about any topic I pick here has a great deal of basis in trauma?  That’s interesting.

If I ask the individual to trace back the symptoms of the social phobia, or the belief he has about himself (“I’m not good enough” or maybe “I’m stupid”), it may likely go to a specific situation or incident experienced early in life.  Perhaps in school, or a family or social setting.  There may have been humiliation or public embarrassment involved.

Treatment can allow him to resolve the overwhelming experience(s) from earlier in life so that the experience is finally in the past and not directing his life today.


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