Social fear and social phobia

Understanding human nature

Being the centre of attention is exciting. Limelight, propaganda, publicity are good when they get you positive attention. Human nature circumvents all potential uncomfortable situations and evaluations that may have negative consequences on one’s performance, ability or character. An examination or presentation for which one is unprepared is not exhilarating. Some have the ability to fight the situation confidently, oblivious to the outcome; while others react with nervousness and an escapist attitude. Social phobia is relatively common today.

The incessant need for stress

Almost everyone experiences uneasiness in situations that involve potential evaluation by others. A job interview, elocution, public speech, a first date; all lead to a certain quantum of anxiety. Everyone wishes to do well and be held in high regard when facing others, and in all these situations, a certain amount of positive stress has the ability to enhance one’s performance. It keeps one vigil, watchful and prepared. The stress performance graph is linear till a certain point. That’s the upper limit of positive stress, which everyone needs to optimize public performance; more than that is not welcome.

Expectations should be reasonable

Some personalities can be too perfectionistic and self-critical. It seems as if they don’t love themselves enough at a deeper psychological level because they choose to not appreciate themselves for who they are. They build up an incapacitating level of anxiety, which can emerge as a desire for escape or avoidance. They really don’t want to escape or avoid the task; it’s the fear of negative outcome of that task that builds up the stress. One must set reasonable standards for oneself as well as the world. If expectations are extreme and exacting, then self-evaluation always turns out negative and anticipates negative evaluation from others too. We are not as incompetent as we think we are.

What social phobia feels like

Commonly, people with social phobia experience physical occurrences such as blushing, trembling, dryness in the mouth, shaking or perspiring; all physiological signs of stress. This is only worsened by the fear that they will be observed by others to add to their perceived incompetence. It is but natural that people would tend to run from the anxiety-provoking situation (escape) or forego the situation entirely (avoidance). Then, when they are faced with the situation, the anxiety becomes unbearable. It may provoke an extreme state of panic attack too, in some circumstances.

It feels horrible

Social phobia is incapacitating and leads to deficiency in social, educational and vocational functioning. Sufferers find it difficult to initiate and maintain social or romantic relationships, avoid classes that involve public presentations; some may even discontinue education and take up jobs below their ability to avoid social demands. Life doesn’t progress to where it really could, not for limitation in ability to perform, but the fear of the outcome of the battle that prevented one form fighting it in the first place. This amounts to a definite recipe for failure.

There is hope, really

In spite of the trouble that people with social phobia go through, it is a problem with the most infrequent professional visits because people are too inhibited to even seek treatment. In fact the phobia itself prevents them from admitting that they have a problem. Social phobia increases the risk for depression and other subsequent negative consequences. A detailed professional evaluation in social phobia is mandatory. At MINDFRAMES we offer relaxation training, situational exposure, exposure with cognitive restructuring, and social skills training for building social confidence and self-acceptance. Medication assists in the management of depression and anxiety if it co-exists. Regular follow up with cognitive homework assists clients and patients to accomplish their social goals and build on their social quotient.

Signs of Social phobia

Social is more common than we realize. It is usually expressed in:

  • Fear of performance situations
  • Low confidence in facing people
  • May be good at networking sites
  • Panic like situation in public
  • Unreal and distractible state
  • Stuttering and stammering
  • Desire to socialize but cannot
  • Feel incompetent and worthless
  • Unable to tap their own potential
  • Fear hinders their occupation
  • Life revolves around this fear
  • Pessimistic image of the self
  • Tendency to over analyse actions

Frequently Asked Questions

Some people are loners by nature, is that social phobia?
No, a dislike for social gatherings and desire to be alone forms a personality trait. But, a constant apprehension with persistent conscious attempts to actively avoid a social situation; and experience anxiety when faced with it; constitutes social phobia.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is social phobia hereditary?
Yes the genetic component in social phobia is reasonably high and it is known to run in families. However, many environmental factors such as any previous traumatic confrontation in public, multiple stressors and fear of failure can also contribute to it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can medicines cure social phobia?
Medicines help to alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety that usually accompany phobias. For getting control over the irrational beliefs and cognitive distortions; cognitive structuring & behavior therapy techniques given by experts are essential.