Social Anxiety and Social Phobia

Social Anxiety and Social Phobia 

Anxiety is a feeling of discomfort, fear, or worry that is centered on our interactions with other people and involves a concern with being judged negatively, evaluated, or looked down upon by others. While it can often happen during the social exchange itself, it may also pop up in anticipation of aImage social occasion, or afterward when we review our performance in a given situation. Because social anxiety can often seem unwieldy or even overwhelming to understand as a single concept, it is often helpful to view it in terms of three separate components that are interrelated and can strengthen one another, leading to a cycle of anxiety:

Anxious sensations in our bodies, such as:

• Blushing

• Sweating

• Racing heart

• Shaking or tremor

• Dry mouth

• Shortness of breath

• Feeling faint

Anxious thoughts about ourselves, others, and the situation:

• “Everyone is staring at me.”

• “They’ll think I’m a loser.”

• “I don’t belong here.”

• “I won’t have anything to say.”

• “People will see how nervous I am.”

• “They won’t want to talk to me again.”

• “I will keep looking more and more foolish.”

Anxious behaviors, which can be triggered by anxiety, but can also make the anxiety worse over the long term:

• Avoiding entering social situations

• Leaving situations

• Only entering “safe” places or with “safe” people

• Using mobile phones, MP3 players, or other devices to avoid being in conversations

• Apologizing excessively

• Asking for reassurance from others

• Preparing excessively (memorizing what to say, extreme grooming)

• Trying to direct people’s attention away from one’s performance (e.g., by making jokes, dressing in a particular way, etc.)

• Watching for signs that people are judging us

Social anxiety can emerge in a wide range of situations – essentially, whenever we are in contact with other people or believe we may become a focus of others’ attention. While the possibilities are many, following is a list of common situations in which people experience social anxiety: Interpersonal situations – our anxiety is triggered by our interactions with others.

• Going on a date

• Starting a conversation with a stranger

• Asking for directions

• Starting a conversation

• Keeping a conversation going

• Attending a party

• Being interviewed for a job

• Holding eye contact Performance situations – our anxiety is triggered by potentially or actually being the focus of attention.

• Public speaking

• Public singing

• Eating at a restaurant alone

• Dropping something in a public place

• Spilling a drink

• Reading in front of others

• Voicing an opinion during a class or meeting


Anxiety is a normal and healthy part of being human. It mobilizes our bodies and minds to take action in dangerous or unhealthy situations. Without anxiety, we would probably not be alive – it is what tells us to get out of the way of the bus heading right toward us or to get that 3-week-old cough looked at. Social anxiety is no different. Social anxiety helps us to remain sensitive to the feelings and needs of others, which is a core foundation of cooperation and building relationships. Even strong social anxiety can occasionally be useful; for that job interview, we’ll likely do better if we’re extra careful in choosing our words and our outfits. When Does Social Anxiety Become a Problem? Social anxiety becomes a problem only when it is so severe that it is excessive or outside the “norm,” and when it causes major problems in our overall functioning and quality of life. When our social anxiety leads us to consistently avoid social situations, to be very distressed when exposed to them, to have excessive fears of being negatively judged by others, or to miss out on things that we otherwise strongly want or need to do, mental health professionals may consider a diagnosis of Social Phobia.

Although there are dozens of treatments that have been claimed to be useful for anxiety-based problems, only a small number of these have actually been found to be effective in systematic scientific studies based on individuals suffering with Social Phobia. These include medication treatments, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and combinations of these.


About Neelesh Tiwari

Dr. Neelesh Tiwari is working as Managing Director of World Brain Centre & Research Institute. Dr Neelesh Tiwari has recently received the prestigious Jansanskriti Award from Dr. G.B.G Krishnamurthy, Ex- Chief Election commissioner of India.

Posted on February 20, 2014, in Mental Illness. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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