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Social phobia (or social anxiety disorder)

woman sitting alone

Social phobia, also called social anxiety disorder, is diagnosed when people become overwhelmingly anxious and very self-conscious in everyday social situations. People with social phobia have a strong fear of being watched and judged by others and of doing things that will embarrass them. They can worry for days or weeks before a dreaded situation. This fear may become so severe that it interferes with work, school, and other ordinary activities, and can make it hard to make and keep friends.

Physical symptoms that often accompany social phobia include:

  • Blushing
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty talking

Social phobia affects about 15 million American adults and affects women and men in equal numbers. People with social phobia often have other anxiety disorders and/or depression as well. Substance abuse can develop if a person with social phobia uses alcohol or drugs to soothe their anxiety.

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If you think you have an anxiety disorder such as social phobia, the first person you should see is your family doctor. A physician can determine whether the symptoms that alarm you are due to an anxiety disorder, another medical condition, or both.

Treatment options include:

  • Medications
  • Cognitive therapy (to change or get rid of destructive thought patterns)
  • Behavioral therapy (to change a person's behavior)
  • A combination of these treatments

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Content last updated: March 29, 2009.

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