Despite knowing their concerns are excessive or even irrational, some people develop an intense fear of public exposure that may lead them to feel embarrassed or humiliated. Any situation in which others may observe the person's behavior can be a threat. This is called social anxiety disorder or social phobia. People with this type of anxiety suffer from such things as, eating in public, pubic speaking, dating, going to parties, shopping talking to strangers or simply being around anyone known or unknown. Someone who lives with social anxiety may imagine that others are always looking at them or secretly talking about or criticizing them. There may be thoughts that others are more competent and self assured. People with social anxiety will often overestimate how threatening others are and will underestimate their own capabilities to cope socially. Otherwise, those with this disorder can function very well until they are faced with public activities. They will anticipate what they think will happen prior to being in it. When faced in real time, the situation will induce intense fear and panic.
Anxiety, potential for panic, anticipating the panic and then avoidance is a recipe for trouble. Those with social anxiety worry about peoples reaction to seemingly normal behavior. Many may never have developed basic social skills and were shy and isolated as children and adolescents, long before the problem began. The opinions of others were most likely of vital importance, while remaining so as an adult.
Social anxiety disorder or social phobia is most commonly treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This technique uses exposure and response treatment, that encourages the person to first increase their willingness to place themselves into social situations that will induce the anxiety and panic. By doing so, the person learns the coping skills and the responses to their discomfort that will eventually lead them to dismiss their fears. The more exposure to the feared situation, the better the outcome for success. Approximately 80% of people who are treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy find relief.
"Don't Panic" Reid Wilson, Ph.D
"The Anxiety Answer Book" Laurie A. Helgoe Ph.d, Laura R. Wilhelm, Ph.d, Martin J. Kommor, MD