Mental Illness: Facts about Social Phobias

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Facts about Social Phobias

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

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Social Phobia

Social phobia, also called social anxiety disorder, is diagnosed when people become overwhelmingly anxious and excessively self-conscious in everyday social situations. People with social phobia have an intense, persistent, and chronic 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.

While many people with social phobia realize that their fears about being with people are excessive or unreasonable, they are unable to overcome them. Even if they manage to confront their fears and be around others, they are usually very anxious beforehand, are intensely uncomfortable throughout the encounter, and worry about how they were judged for hours afterward.

  • Social phobia affects about 15 million American adults.
  • Women and men are equally likely to develop this disorder.
  • Physical symptoms that often accompany social phobia include blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, nausea, and difficulty talking.
  • Social phobia can be limited to one situation or may be so broad that the person experiences anxiety around almost anyone other than the family.
  • The disorder typically begins in childhood or early adolescence and rarely develops after age 25.
  • Social phobia is often accompanied by depression and may lead to alcohol or other drug abuse.

Social phobia can be successfully treated with certain kinds of psychotherapy or medications.

Mental illness at a glance:

Introduction | Depression | Bipolar Illness | Suicide | Schizophrenia | Anxiety Disorders | Panic Disorder | Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder | Post–Traumatic Stress Disorder | Social Phobia | Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

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