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:: Health Conditions
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by National Insitute of Mental Health
"I couldn't go on dates or to parties. For a while,
I couldn't even go to class. My sophomore year of college
I had to come home for a semester."
"My fear would happen in any social situation.
I would be anxious before I even left the house,
and it would escalate as I got closer to class,
a party, or whatever. I would feel sick to my
stomach--it almost felt like I had the flu. My
heart would pound, my palms would get sweaty,
and I would get this feeling of being removed
from myself and from everybody else."
"When I would walk into a room full of people,
I'd turn red and it would feel like everybody's
eyes were on me. I was too embarrassed to stand
off in a corner by myself, but I couldn't think
of anything to say to anybody. I felt so clumsy,I
couldn't wait to get out."
Social phobia is an intense fear of becoming
humiliated in social situations, specifically
of embarrassing yourself in front of other people.
It often runs in families and may be accompanied
by depression or alcoholism. Social phobia often
begins around early adolescence or even younger."
If you suffer from social phobia, you tend to
think that other people are very competent in
public and that you are not. Small mistakes you
make may seem to you much more exaggerated than
they really are. Blushing itself may seem painfully
embarrassing, and you feel as though all eyes
are focused on you. You may be afraid of being
with people other than those closest to you. Or
your fear may be more specific, such as feeling
anxious about giving a speech, talking to a boss
or other authority figure, or dating. The most
common social phobia is a fear of public speaking.
Sometimes social phobia involves a general fear
of social situations such as parties. More rarely
it may involve a fear of using a public restroom,
eating out, talking on the phone, or writing in
the presence of other people, such as when signing
Although this disorder is often thought of as
shyness, the two are not the same. Shy people
can be very uneasy around others, but they don't
experience the extreme anxiety in anticipating
a social situation, and they don't necessarily
avoid circumstances that make them feel self-conscious.
In contrast, people with social phobia aren't
necessarily shy at all. They can be completely
at ease with people most of the time, but particular
situations, such as walking down an aisle in public
or making a speech, can give them intense anxiety.
Social phobia disrupts normal life, interfering
with career or social relationships. For example,
a worker can turn down a job promotion because
he can't give public presentations. The dread
of a social event can begin weeks in advance,
and symptoms can be quite debilitating.
Phobias aren't just extreme fear; they are irrational
fear. You may be able to ski the world's tallest
mountains with ease but feel panic going above
the 10th floor of an office building.
People with social phobia are aware that their
feelings are irrational. Still, they experience
a great deal of dread before facing the feared
situation, and they may go out of their way to
avoid it. Even if they manage to confront what
they fear, they usually feel very anxious beforehand
and are intensely uncomfortable throughout. Afterwards,
the unpleasant feelings may linger, as they worry
about how they may have been judged or what others
may have thought or observed about them.
About 80 percent of people who suffer from social
phobia find relief from their symptoms when treated
with cognitive-behavioral therapy or medications
or a combination of the two. Therapy may involve
learning to view social events differently; being
exposed to a seemingly threatening social situation
in such a way that it becomes easier to face;
and learning anxiety-reducing techniques, social
skills, and relaxation techniques.
The medications that have proven effective include
antidepressants called MAO inhibitors. People
with a specific form of social phobia called performance
phobia have been helped by drugs called beta-blockers.
For example, musicians or others with this anxiety
may be prescribed a beta-blocker for use on the
day of a performance.
Social phobia can make life extremely difficult. Socialising
is one of life's great joys, and to constantly experience
anxiety and fear in social situations can be awful.
Although it is natural for most people to feel some level of excitement before some social events, social phobia is something else entirely.
People with social phobia often have difficulties in areas other than just 'socialising'. Meetings at work, public speaking, even groups of friends can be difficult.
The anxiety created by social phobia keeps the attention locked on the self (self consciousness) which is exactly the opposite of what is required to enjoy socialising.
Even thoughts of social events can create high levels of anxiety
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