By Rob Shapiro, AnxietySecrets
Social phobia, also called social anxiety, is characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations.
People with social phobia have a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and of being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions.
Their fear may be so intense that it interferes with work, school, and other ordinary activities.
While many people with social phobia recognize that their fear of being around people may be excessive or unreasonable, they find it very difficult to overcome it.
Social phobics can sometimes worry for days or weeks in advance of a dreaded situation.
Social anxiety can be limited to only one type of situation (such as a fear of speaking in formal or informal situations, or eating or drinking in front of others).
In its most severe form, it may be so broad that a person experiences symptoms almost any time they are around other people. Social phobia can be very debilitating – it may even keep people from going to work or school on some days.
Many people with this illness have a hard time making and keeping friends.
Physical symptoms often accompany the intense anxiety of social phobia and include blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, and other symptoms of anxiety, including difficulty talking and nausea or other stomach discomfort.
These visible symptoms heighten the fear of disapproval and the symptoms themselves can become an additional focus of fear. Fear of symptoms can create a vicious cycle: as people with social phobia worry about experiencing the symptoms, the greater their chances of developing the symptoms.
Social phobia often runs in families and may be accompanied by depression or alcohol dependence.
* About 3.7% of the U.S. population ages 18 to 54 – approximately 5.3 million Americans – has social phobia in any given year.
* Social phobia occurs in women twice as often as in men, although a higher proportion of men seeks help for this disorder.
* Social phobia typically begins in childhood or early adolescence and rarely develops after age 25.
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