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What does it look like?
Social anxiety refers to nervousness or uneasiness in social situations. It often revolves around a of fear about doing something embarrassing or foolish, making a bad impression, or being judged by others. Anxiety in social situations can cause distress because of uncomfortable feelings or physical sensations. Individuals may fear someone seeing their hands shaking, or sweating. Their heart may start racing and become dizzy. Anxious thoughts, expectations, and predictions can create panic and cause someone to go blank when talking to someone new. Avoidance of social situations often leads to more fear instead of less.
When social anxiety becomes severe, it may develop into a condition known as social anxiety disorder or social phobia. Social phobia or social anxiety disorder is “a marked and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others. The individual fears that he or she will act in a way (or show anxiety symptoms) that will be humiliating or embarrassing.” (DSM-IV-TR).
Who is affected?
“Social phobia is quite common. It is the second most common anxiety disorder, and significantly impairs the lives of 2-3% of the population of the United States. An additional 20% have less distressing forms of Social phobia because they are able to avoid the situation they dread.” (Dying of Embarrassment, Markway, Pollard, Flynn & Carmin).
Where does it come from?
Social phobia can develop because of biological or genetic factors that predispose an individual to social anxiety. Anxiety may be learned in the home or in other environments. There could be a specific traumatic event or public humiliation that caused a fear of certain situations.
When does it happen?
Social phobia typically begins in adolescence and can be associated with the traits of shyness and social inhibition that started in childhood.
How do we treat it?
The most effective treatment is Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Exposure Therapy.