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Social Phobia Disorder - Symptoms, Causes, Treatments and Interesting Facts & Myths

Updated on April 30, 2010

What is social phobia disorder? To put it simply, social phobia is a form of an anxiety disorder. Specifically, the name says it all - a fear of social situations; however there is a bit more to social phobia disorder than you might expect. Read on to find out some of the myths associated with this common anxiety disorder in this easy to understand guide!

If you think that you may have social phobia, or any other anxiety disorder, then it is incredibly important to educate yourself as much as possible about the topic. The fact that you’re doing research is a fantastic first step. Also, it should be noted that being shy or self-conscious does not mean that you have this disorder. Many people get nervous during public speaking or being in large crowds; this is completely normal. If you're simply shy or self-conscious, it probably doesn't get in the way of your everyday functioning like social phobia disorder can.

Social Phobia Disorder
Social Phobia Disorder

Symptoms of Social Phobia Disorder

According to the DSM-IV-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), individuals that suffer from social phobia experience unreasonable anxiety when faced with social situations that may involve contact with people that they know or don’t know. In addition, they have this fear because they feel as though they may be judged or humiliated by the people they may come in contact with. In short, social phobia disorder is not simply feeling anxious when in public (this is a myth!), the other key criterion is that the person must also feel anxiety from the thought of being judged or humiliated in public.

This may cause the person to avoid social situations all together or have to endure them with discomfort and distress.

As you can imagine, severe social phobia can greatly impact people’s professional and academic social activities, as well as relationships. Those suffering from social phobia disorder constantly are thinking about upcoming social situations that they may be forced to endure; this is enough to cause panic and anxiety.

Physiological symptoms of social phobia disorder
Physiological symptoms of social phobia disorder

It should be noted that there are some other disorders that may mimic symptoms of social phobia, such as separation anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, body dysmorphic disorder, etc. People who suffer from eating disorders or have a clinical fear of stuttering may also have symptoms of social phobia disorder.

The physiological symptoms of social phobia can occur when the person is faced with being in public. Some people have one symptom, but many experience a number of symptoms at once, making the experience even more overwhelming. These symptoms include: increased heart rate, sweating, dry mouth, twitching, shaking, nausea, trembling, blushing, etc.

Causes of Social Phobia

The causes of social phobia are still being determined. There is research to suggest that you may be able to inherit social phobia and there is also research that suggests that it can sometimes be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Treatment of Social Phobia

Just because the exact causes of social phobia are unknown, there are treatments available. There are self-help strategies that you can try if you feel as though your symptoms are not strong enough to warrant professional help. If you want to try to help quell your social phobia, try eliminating caffeine and nicotine stimulants from your lifestyle. Practice deep breathing and meditation techniques. There are also many books available for self-help treatment for overcoming social phobia disorder.

If you do choose to get professional help, there are many forms of treatment available including cognitive behavior therapy, anti-anxiety medication and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing). These treatments will help you challenge your negative thoughts and improve your self-image. This is an incredibly important step in gaining relief from social phobia disorder.


The above article is an informational guide about social phobia for educational purposes. It is not meant to serve as medical or psychiatric advice. Please contact a psychologist or psychiatrist if you require more information and assistance with this disorder.

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Social Phobia Facts and Myths

  • People that have social phobia are typically not impacted in 1-on-1 communication with peers, rather the anxiety occurs when thinking about facing groups of people or while in a group of people.

  • Social phobia is not just a fear of socializing, it involves anxiety that the person will act in a way that might cause humiliation, embarrassment or judgment by others while in a social situation..

  • Which gender is more prone to developing social phobia? The truth is that social phobia affects both men and women equally.

  • It is estimated that approximately 5% of the population may experience some level of social phobia disorder.

What Is Social Phobia Disorder?

Related Resources

Social Phobia Disorder - The Official DSM-IV-TR Diagnostic Criteria

Public Speaking Tips - Learn how to make proper eye contact and feel more comfortable during public speaking.

Comments About Social Phobia Disorder

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    • BeccaLynnee profile image

      BeccaLynnee 5 years ago from USA

      I know I have this disorder, and im getting professional help. This was a well written article, thumbs up!

    • girly_girl09 profile image

      girly_girl09 6 years ago from United States

      Hi Laila, nicotine and caffeine are substances that excite the nervous system and aren't recommended for those with an anxiety disorder.

    • LailaK profile image

      LailaK 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      girly_girl09, your hub is tremendously useful! I was wondering though, you mentioned that one should eliminate nicotine and caffeine if he/she wants to quell the symptoms, do you know why that should be done?

    • profile image

      Mute Kid 7 years ago

      Not always adept at one on one communication though. Social Phobia is different for each individual.

      Great article, thanks.

    • girly_girl09 profile image

      girly_girl09 7 years ago from United States

      Hi Andromida, thanks for reading! My professor made it very clear that people with social phobia are typically quite adept at 1-on-1 communication. It's interesting!

    • andromida profile image

      syras mamun 7 years ago

      I have seen many people avoiding social events due to some social phobia, yet they are quite easy going when they are in one-to-one contact with people.You revealed some great information, I like they way you presented this hub-very very precise in using words. Thank you :)