"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."
[read more examples of social anxiety disorder]
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 a check.
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.
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.
* text taken from ANXIETY DISORDERS: DECADE OF THE BRAIN (NIMH).