Understanding Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder)

Man talking to healthcare provider.
Talk to your healthcare provider about treatment for social phobia.

You have to give a presentation next week. Just thinking about it makes your heart race. Your throat gets tight, and you can hardly breathe. Sometimes, you even feel faint. Speaking in front of a group makes most people nervous, but your fear is beyond reason. This is nothing to be ashamed of. You may have an anxiety disorder known as social phobia. Talk with your healthcare provider or mental health provider. He or she can offer treatment and support.

What is social phobia?

Social phobia is also called social anxiety disorder. It is an intense fear of being humiliated in a social or work setting. Even if you realize that your worries are irrational, you still expect people to judge and think poorly of you. You may stay away from group settings so you don't have anxiety. This can create problems with relationships, your job, and many other parts of your life. And it can make life much less enjoyable.

What causes it?

The exact cause of social phobia isn’t known. It may run in families. The balance of certain chemicals in your brain may also play a role. And an embarrassing or traumatic event may trigger social phobias in some people. Sometimes, the social phobia may not appear until years after this event.

How does social phobia feel?

People with social phobia are very conscious of how others see them. In a social setting, symptoms may include:

  • Self-conscious thoughts (you may think all eyes are on you)

  • Shakiness, nervousness, or a trembling voice

  • Sweating and blushing

  • Increased heartbeat

  • Shortness of breath

  • Headache or stomachache

  • Muscle tension

  • Dry mouth

Getting help

Asking for help may be very hard for you, but the effort will be worth it. Certain medicines may lessen your symptoms. And behavioral therapy may help you conquer your fears. This involves working with your therapist to learn how to relax when you feel anxious. Therapy can be on a one-to-one basis or in a group setting with people who have similar concerns. Educate yourself about social phobias and keep track of helpful online resources and books you can use during stressful periods. You may also want to try stress management techniques such as meditation, and consider online or in person support groups. You’ll also slowly start to confront your fears. At first, you may just think about the situations that scare you. Later, you may face them in person. For instance, you might start by giving a speech in front of one friend, and then gradually in front of larger groups. With each step, you’ll become less afraid.

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Paul Ballas MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2019
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.