Human Resources

Understanding Social Phobia

5.12.21

You have to give a presentation next week. Just thinking about it makes your heart race. Your throat gets tight, and you can hardly breathe. Sometimes, you even feel faint. Speaking in front of a group makes most people nervous, but your fear is beyond reason. This is nothing to be ashamed of. You may have an anxiety disorder known as social phobia. Talk to your doctor or mental health professional (like the free and confidential counseling you have access to through MINES EAP!). They can offer treatment and support.

What Is Social Phobia?

Social phobia is an intense fear of being judged or embarrassed in front of others. The most common social phobia is fear of public speaking. But you also may be frightened by everyday events. For instance, you may be afraid to eat or drink in public. You might even be afraid to shop or write a check. These fears can greatly disrupt your life. It may be hard for you to work or
go to school. And you may feel very alone.

What Causes It?

The exact cause of social phobia isn’t known. The disorder may run in families. The balance of certain chemicals in your brain also play a role. And an embarrassing or traumatic event may trigger social phobias in some people. Sometimes, the social phobia may not appear until years after this event.

Common Symptoms of Social Phobia:
• An intense fear of being judged by others in a social setting
• The fear that you will be embarrassed by your actions
• A fear that people will notice how anxious you are
• The knowledge that your fear is out of proportion

Getting Help

Asking for help may be very hard for you, but the effort will be worth it. Certain medications may lessen your symptoms. Behavioral therapy may help you conquer your fears. Working with your therapist, you’ll learn how to relax when you feel anxious. You’ll also slowly begin to confront your fears. At first, you may just think about the situations that scare you. Later,
you may face them in person. For instance, you might start by giving a speech in front of one friend, and then gradually in front of larger groups. With each step, you’ll become less afraid.