Mental Disorder : Social phobia

Social phobia is one of the most common psychological problems faced by people across the world. Social anxiety is another name of social phobia. This psychological disorder is characterized by fear and avoidance of various social situations.

People with social phobia experience intense fear of becoming humiliated in social situations. They are bothered that they will feel embarrassed in front of others. In a social situation, such people tend to think that all eyes are focused on them. They feel that others are competent in public. They tend to exaggerate even a small mistake they make in public.

Social phobia can be specific like fear of speaking in public, meeting new people, dating or talking to an authority. A person might even experience fear in social gatherings like parties. Not all people with social phobia fear or avoid all social situations. In rare cases the person feels anxious to eat, talk or write in the presence of others. These specific situations vary from person to person.

Social phobia is often mistaken as shyness. Infact shy people do not experience extreme anxiety in a social situation. Social anxiety can be very damaging to normal life.

Causes of social phobia are not known. Studies indicate that biological and environmental factors are responsible. Social phobia often runs in families. It begins around early adolescence or even younger.

Social phobia is treatable. Unfortunately, in our country social phobia is often overlooked by educators and mental health professionals. Without treatment, people with social phobia are at high risk. If untreated, it can develop into a lifelong pattern of social impairment. Also, these people are at increased risk for depression and alcohol or drug abuse.

For social phobia medication or psychotherapy or a combination of both are helpful.

In medication, normally antidepressants are given. These drugs help to overcome anxiety. But the possibility of side effects can not be ruled out. Moreover, with medication the patient may not recover fully. There are chances of relapse once the medication is stopped.

Psychotherapy aims at curing social phobia permanently. It helps the patients to learn to perceive social situations differently. Techniques and behaviours to reduce extreme anxiety in social situations are taught. Moreover, skills to relax in social anxiety arousing situations are also taught.

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