Social phobia is one of the most widespread mental problems; it troubles people all around the world. Fear plays the main role - fear of people, interactions with them and of all situations in which the affected person must deal with others, is assessed or otherwise observed by others. That is why there are quite many cases where people affected by this phobia cease to live a normal life and they often get to the point of being unable to leave their home and come out into the street. There are even cases when the social phobia ultimately drives people to suicide.
Social phobia is frequently a vicious circle for the people affected by it, and it may bring them down to the absolute bottom. As soon as they are unable to go to work, other problems start to pile up and cause more problems. The affected people then get caught up in depression; they find solace in excessive alcohol consumption or drug abuse. In its most developed stage, social phobia is accompanied by many other troubles and it can be both their cause and their consequence. This article brings all important information about social phobia - what it is, what forms it may take and how to treat it. Experts state that one of the biggest problems with social phobia is that people affected by it often refuse to seek their help. If they do, they find out that social phobia is actually quite well removable in comparison to other mental problems.
What Is Social Phobia
In theoretical perspective, it is fairly simple to describe social phobia. It is an inexplicable and irrational fear of social situations. This means that the affected person cannot handle communicating with other people, they are afraid to do so and it makes them nervous. It is generally unpleasant for the person only when other people look at him/her. People affected by social phobia are not able to even speak in the presence of others, let alone perform other tasks such as make a call, eat or type. The affected person hates others looking at him/her even in fairly common situations as well as situations inducing fright and nervousness even in healthy people. This fear fluctuates in relation to other people being acquaintances, friends, relatives or complete strangers.
People affected by social phobia (or by onset of it) avoid encountering other people unless it is absolutely necessary. As we have already mentioned, these feelings keep biting deeper and deeper until the affected person stops leaving their house altogether. Phobics do not invite guests to their houses. In each person, these provoking situations may vary or even get very specific; at other times, it is a whole range of situations that may even include the person's family. So if you observe in yourself that you tend to address yourself more and more, you seek solitude and you find contact with other people unpleasant, beware.
Social phobia may manifest in life in fits and starts, e.g. in relation to stress and similar influences that get reflected into the mental condition. Statistics say that up to 90% of population experience certain periods in which people are shy in front of others. But long-term social phobia plagues approximately 2%, both men and women, 3-12% experience episodes of the phobia from time to time. Social phobia begins in puberty - between 14 and 20 years of age, when individuals are often part of socialization processes. And if an individual encounters any negative attitudes in this period, it may span into a social phobia later.
Everybody feels a pang of anxiety from time to time. Anxiety resembles phobia in its symptoms, but it is short-term and therefore doesn't cause extensive and troublesome consequences in life. It doesn't make people start avoiding confrontations with other people purposefully.
Social Phobia Is Accompanied by Petrifying Fear and Anxiety
Social phobia is based on fear and related anxiety. Apart from these, social phobia may also manifest with other accompanying symptoms, even affect the physical condition. People affected by social phobia tend to blush during communication, they are unable to maintain eye-contact, they have tremor in their hands, they feel sick to their stomach, etc. Social phobia manifests even more easily in people who feel inferior, e.g. because of their small nose, bald head or crooked teeth, because the sick person has a feeling that everyone focuses on their shortcomings. That is why social phobia can become a spring board for development of paranoid and similar disorders.
Usual Common Symptoms
We must say that people affected by this disease are aware of their condition and they would often wish to live without the fear but they fail to overcome it. All the feelings and symptoms accompanying social phobia always get the better of them. The affected people always try to persuade themselves that they can handle it, but when they face reality, social phobia wins again. Let's have a look at what a person with this mental problem experiences in particular:
- they don't want to be in the centre of attention, it terrifies them
- they are unable to speak peacefully with their superior, in front of a group, etc.
- they are unable to ask for anything
- they are unable to bear looks of others
- they are constantly checking their behaviour and appearance
- they never want to eat in front of people
- they are afraid to start any kind of conversation, they respond curtly
- for physical symptoms see above (blushing, sick feeling in the stomach, heart palpitations, accelerated heart rate, perspiration, etc.).
If you recognize yourself in this list, visit your General Physician or look for a psychologist or a psychiatrist right away. There is no point in letting social phobia destroy you. All you have to do is overcome it just once and tell someone what you are going through.
Consequences of Social Phobia
Asi netřeba připomínat, jak sociální fobie ovlivňuje kvalitu života. V těch nejhorších případech může vést až k jeho ztrátě. Podívejme se nyní na ty největší a nejobvyklejší následky. Je zcela jasné, že jedinec s fobií trpí samotou, z níž mohou následně vyplývat i další nepříjemné důsledky, jako jsou omezené sociální dovednosti, nemožnost nalézt si partnera apod. Bylo už zmíněno, že sociální fobie může člověka zahnat až do takového stádia, že není schopen chodit normálně do práce a vůbec ven. S tím souvisí i vznik různých závislostí, finanční problémy, deprese a úzkostné poruchy. Bohužel nutno zmínit, že i přes takový způsob života se lidé mnohdy stydí vyhledat pomoc a raději nějak přežívají. And that is wrong.
Social Phobia: Treatment
Many people suffering from a phobia feel embarrassed for it and so even if it is clear to them that their state of mind is not natural, they convince themselves that they will never be different. However, doctors have a clear message for all people with this problem: it is well treatable. There are two ways and it always depends on the personality of the treated person which one will they choose. So there is treatment:
- with medicinal drugs - antidepressants from drug groups SSRI, SNRI and RIMA
- with psychotherapy
In case of treatment with psychiatric drugs, experience shows that approximately 80% of patients show significant improvement. Therapy helps as well /using cognitive-behavioural methods); its goal is to teach the man to perceive stressful situations differently, to change negative thoughts and control feelings that come in various situations. Social phobia can be thus removed completely. An important part of therapy is training of social skills. This is usually performed in a group and individual patients get tasks to achieve - from the simplest ones to more complex tasks. The training includes e.g. non-verbal behaviour, conversation with people, asking for something, criticising, acceptance of praise, etc. The affected person learns what limits them the most in life. .
Combination of both possible therapies is usually selected when the individual therapies fail. In any case, it is very important to gradually start seeking out situations that terrify the affected person and face them head on. As soon as positive results start showing up, when the affected person sees they e.g. see they are less afraid, that their hands don't get all sweaty or the pinching feeling in their stomach is no longer that intensive, they will get motivated to stick to the doctor's recommendations and the successes will start piling up.
Social Phobia VS Panic Anxiety
May people often confuse social phobia with panic attacks. That is why it is necessary to exclude also other possible diagnoses prior to the treatment. The main difference is the absence of heart-attack conditions; it is important to recognize them from the classic social phobia. Panic anxiety is much fiercer in terms of bodily and physiological symptoms (inability to catch one's breath, petrification, speechlessness, etc.).
Social phobia is a fairly big problem, but there is the "advantage" it can be treated. So if it also plagues you, jump into it head on and find some will to achieve some changes in you. It is not impossible. And if you know anyone in your surroundings who suffers from social phobia, try to talk to them regularly, encourage them, rehearse situations they are afraid of. Maybe they are awaiting a helping hand, and when they get it, they will agree later to take the expert hand as well.