If you experience significant distress while interacting with others, you may have a type of anxiety disorder called social phobia. While it may be overwhelming, social phobia is also a highly treatable condition. Social phobia counseling can help you learn to recognize social phobia and start regaining control over your life. Additionally, anxiety counseling can teach you skills for handling social situations without feeling overwhelmed.
What is Social Phobia?
Social phobia, or social anxiety disorder (SAD), is a form of anxiety disorder that manifests as an extreme discomfort around social situations. It is characterized by a persistent, excessive fear of criticism and judgment from others.
Because of this, you might be afraid of embarrassment or humiliation in public, so you avoid social events, pull away from family and friends, and suffer in your relationships.
A mix of genetics, environment and unique life experiences are thought to contribute to developing a social phobia.
What Are the Symptoms of Social Phobia?
While it is normal to be nervous before starting a new job or delivering a presentation in front of an audience, even brief contact with others can be distressing for those with social anxiety disorder.
Here are the three most common signs of social phobia to help you identify it:
1. Excessive Uneasiness when Being Around Others
Social phobia goes far beyond shyness. If you have social anxiety, every social interaction could cause you a lot of stress. You may avoid attending important social occasions such as weddings, birthday parties, and workplace events because you cannot muster the energy and courage to get there. You may struggle to develop and maintain happy, positive romantic relationships since you feel an intense fear when meeting new people.
2. An Overwhelming Fear of Criticism from Others
A paralyzing fear of embarrassing yourself in front of other people is linked to a strong feeling of anxiety in social situations.
For example, you may dread being around other people because you are afraid they will judge you based on your looks, education, or abilities. You may also be anxious about the physical signs of social phobia, such as sweating or trembling, that could make you feel embarrassed in public.
3. Avoiding Social Situations
You may avoid social activities, especially ones where you might be the center of attention, because you worry too much about being embarrassed or judged by other people.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 (DSM-5), avoidance is a defining feature of social anxiety disorder. But it is also thought to be the fundamental reason for the condition’s persistence. Avoidance behaviors temporarily reduce anxiety and fear. However, avoidance might worsen your symptoms and make everyday life more difficult.
Additional social phobia symptoms may include:
- Difficulty maintaining eye contact
- Upset stomach
- Fast heartbeat
- Uncontrollable blushing
Social anxiety symptoms can make it difficult to function normally, affecting your mood, education, work, and relationships. But there are ways to overcome a social phobia that might help you feel less uncomfortable. These strategies may involve mindfulness, breathwork, relaxation techniques, and journaling. You could try them before or with counseling for anxiety and social phobia treatment.