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What is social phobia or social anxiety disorder?

Social phobia, also called social anxiety disorder, is diagnosed when people become overwhelmingly anxious and excessively self-conscious in everyday social situations. People with social phobia have an intense, persistent, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and of doing things that will embarrass them. They can worry for days or weeks before a dreaded situation. This fear may become so severe that it interferes with work, school, and other ordinary activities, and can make it hard to make and keep friends.

While many people with social phobia realize that their fears about being with people are excessive or unreasonable, they are unable to overcome them. Even if they manage to confront their fears and be around others, they are usually very anxious beforehand, are intensely uncomfortable throughout the encounter, and worry about how they were judged for hours afterward.

Physical symptoms that often accompany social phobia include blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, nausea, and difficulty talking. When these symptoms occur, people with social phobia feel as though all eyes are focused on them.

Social phobia can be successfully treated with certain kinds of psychotherapy or medications.

Social phobia is an anxiety disorder in which a person has significant anxiety and discomfort related to a fear of being embarrassed, humiliated, or scorned by others in social or performance situations. Even when they manage to confront this fear, persons with social phobia usually:

- feel very anxious before the event/outing.

- feel intensely uncomfortable throughout the event/outing.

- have lingering unpleasant feelings after the event/outing.

Social phobia frequently occurs with the following:

- public speaking

- meeting people

- dealing with authority figures

- eating in public

- using public restrooms

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 do not experience the extreme anxiety in anticipating a social situation--and, they do not necessarily avoid circumstances that make them feel self-conscious. In contrast, people with social phobia are not necessarily shy at all, but can be completely at ease with some people most of the time.

Most people experiencing social phobia will try to avoid situations that provoke dread or otherwise cause them much distress.

Social phobia, also called social anxiety disorder, is diagnosed when people become overwhelmingly anxious and excessively self-conscious in everyday social situations. People with social phobia have an intense, persistent, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and of doing things that will embarrass them. They can worry for days or weeks before a dreaded situation. This fear may become so severe that it interferes with work, school, and other ordinary activities, and can make it hard to make and keep friends.

While many people with social phobia realize that their fears about being with people are excessive or unreasonable, they are unable to overcome them. Even if they manage to confront their fears and be around others, they are usually very anxious beforehand, are intensely uncomfortable throughout the encounter, and worry about how they were judged for hours afterward.

Social phobia can be limited to one situation (such as talking to people, eating or drinking, or writing on a blackboard in front of others) or may be so broad (such as in generalized social phobia) that the person experiences anxiety around almost anyone other than the family.

Physical symptoms that often accompany social phobia include blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, nausea, and difficulty talking. When these symptoms occur, people with social phobia feel as though all eyes are focused on them.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Mental Health.

One form of anxiety is called Social Phobia, or Social Anxiety Disorder. As with many psychological conditions, the diagnosis is made when feelings and symptoms that are normal in everyone become amplified to the extent that they affect one's daily life. The condition commonly starts during the teen years and, for some, may persist for many years or even a lifetime. It can be a major source of stress. Although the cause is not completely understood, there seems to be both a genetic predisposition as well as an environmental component. Social Phobia sometimes runs in families, but no one knows for certain why some people experience it and others don't.
People with social phobia feel a persistent and powerful uneasiness, self-consciousness, and fear of humiliation in ordinary social situations with unfamiliar people or where scrutiny by others is possible. These situations usually cause anxiety and sometimes a panic attack. Social phobia often leads people to avoid parties and other gatherings. Adults with social phobia realize that their fear is excessive or unreasonable, but most children do not.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.