Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder) is an extreme fear of being judged or criticized by others. This often leads someone to avoid situations where he or she may be exposed to new people, or to large groups of people. People with social phobia may experience excessive fear in social situations (e.g., meeting or talking to people) which causes significant distress and interferes with functioning. The disorder can be selective in that some people may have significant difficulty in particular social situations but may be perfectly fine in other, seemingly similar, 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 positions
- Disagreeing with others
People with social phobia are afraid that they will act in ways that will draw negative attention. They often fear that others will see some sign of anxiety, such as blushing, trembling, or sweating. They then get more anxious about showing anxiety, and the problem tends to snowball.
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 or at work. Sometimes, however, the problems can be very serious. People with severe social phobia often have very few friends, feel lonely and have trouble reaching their personal and professional goals.
Social phobia is very common in that it affects one out of eight people at some point in their lives, and it is twice as common for women as for men. However, men are more likely to seek 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.
If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, a psychological evaluation is recommended. The Tarnow Center offers both assessment and treatment for anxiety disorders using a biopsychosocial approach that addresses the medical and psychosocial needs of the individual and the family. Appropriate intervention for anxiety disorders includes:
- Individual Therapy: Individual work focuses on developing specific skills for managing anxiety, while also addressing the struggles with daily stressors and low self-esteem that often accompany a diagnosis of anxiety.
- Biofeedback: Like individual therapy, Biofeedback works by teaching specific anxiety management skills to the client. Biofeedback employs the use of technology to make the client more aware of the internal processes that contribute to anxiety, and in doing so, teaches the client to better control these processes.
- Family Therapy: Family work is important in the treatment of anxiety in that it focuses on developing open communication and expression of emotion, while teaching parents/loved ones techniques to utilize at home with the client.
- Group Therapy: Groups provide safe and appropriate social training where the client can get feedback from peers and professionals about how to regulate their behavior.
For more information about resources in your area, go to: Treatment Programs