Feeling anxious in social situations is something everyone experiences from time to time. A racing heart, nervous muscle spasms and/or sweaty palms can affect adults and children alike. Extreme shyness, self-consciousness and a growing fear of embarrassment all restrict personal action and expression, and social phobia therefore can have a long-standing negative effect that limits emotional and social response.
What Is Social Phobia?
Social phobia is a psychological problem that restricts personal experience, exchange and interaction with others. It is often misdiagnosed as depression and/or panic or personality disorder. For some people social phobia may present itself in situations that are public – for instance, as a fear of eating or drinking in the company of other people. Symptoms of social phobia may restrict the ability to hold down a job or influence behaviour around others. Or it may be apparent as a psychical muscle spasm.
Social Phobia, or Social Anxiety, is an automatic irrational thought process that triggers feelings of inadequacy that feeds negative action, expectation and appraisal. Without appropriate therapy this is a problem that will continue to restrict interaction and to limit self-belief and self-awareness.
What Causes Social Phobia?
An individual’s role models – particularly parents – play a big part in social development and the building of personal confidence. If expression is restricted from a young age this can manifest as a fear of social interaction as a child grows up. Life experiences and events also impact on our understanding of acceptable levels, and methods, of interaction and this may add to the pressure that a naturally shy person has to overcome in order to interact with other people. Continual criticism, bullying and other forms of negative behaviour also encourage fears to grow and fester.
Someone experiencing social anxiety may display self-conscious behaviour patterns or become restriction in social interaction with others. Sensitivity to public embarrassment, criticism and fear of making a mistake all add to the overwhelming sense of inadequacy that individuals experiencing social phobia may endure.
Social Anxiety may also limit personal experience by compounding feelings of loneliness and disappointment and of missing out of opportunities to interact in the way other people find it easy to do. Therefore everyday situations like chatting to colleagues at work can become an issue because social phobia fears begin to take hold.
Extreme Social Phobia
Besides exhibiting uncomfortable feelings in social situations social phobia can, in some cases, become a far greater problem. Selective Mutism – which is more often experienced in childhood and creates a barrier to communication – can affect not only the sufferer but also family and relationships with others. It is not an uncooperative response but an extreme shyness and fear.
How To Overcome Social Anxiety
Short-term therapy like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (or CBT) provides a therapeutic treatment that offers long-term benefits and relief to the anxieties that are experienced. Therapy group work is also another beneficial option that provides understanding, support and on-going methods of coping with the problem.
It can be a difficult realisation to accept that you have a social phobia or social anxiety problem. Understanding that there is help available will, however, provide support to those who wish to improve social interaction and remove negative behaviour patterns.