We all want to enjoy social situations, such as family get-togethers, school gatherings, meeting up at café’s, clubs, celebrating birthdays or just sharing a meal with friends. Other social situations may also include presenting ideas or information at school or in the workplace to our peers.
While in some instances we do feel a healthy level of nervousness, for a proportion of the population these situations cause significant psychological distress. For some people, everyday interactions like this cause significant fear, anxiety, embarrassment, fear of being judged and self-consciousness.
Social Phobia is often termed as Social Anxiety and is prevalent in the population, and has become even more prevalent due to the COVID lockdown that we have all experienced in 2020. Statistically 1 in 7 of the population in Australia experience Social Phobia or Anxiety.
Generally, the signs begin in early adolescents however young children and older adults can develop social anxiety. Not to be mistaken for introverted individuals who may come across as quite shy and reserved.
Here are some signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Feeling fearful and avoiding normal daily routines such as attending school or work.
- Feeling like you will be judged by others and worrying about being embarrassed.
- Fears that you will be noticed for looking anxious, you might blush, sweat, shake or have a tremor in your voice.
- Fear of talking to strangers and avoiding this situation at all costs.
- Avoid being the centre of attention.
- Spending time overthinking and analysing your performance after being in a social situation.
- Expecting the worst possible scenario after a negative social experience.
- In children, social anxiety can present with tears, temper tantrums, clinging to parents or the child may become nonverbal.
- Fast heartbeat
- Shallow breathing
- Sweating with no physical exertion
- Upset stomach and/or nausea
- Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
- Feeling like your mind has gone blank
Taking all of these factors into consideration and if you find that you experience the majority of these signs or symptoms, it may be worth a trip to your doctor to obtain a referral to a psychologist or counsellor.
Social Phobia or Anxiety does not have to be a permanent condition, through the therapeutic process we can address the part of the brain that causes this fear response – the amygdala. Through the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, we can teach the fear response to be calm in social situations so that you may go on to enjoy a socially active lifestyle.