Social Phobia: What is it exactly?
Social Phobia Overview:
Social phobia can be an
excruciatingly painful experience for performers and individuals alike. Many
people have difficulty when talking or performing in front of others although
they are not usually considered to have social phobia. The opera singer Maria
Callas was said to shake with fear before going onstage, and the former British
Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan would frequently feel nauseous prior to being
questioned by Parliament. While these uncomfortable feelings may be very
inconvenient, these somewhat normal social fears are usually relatively well
managed, allowing people to function adequately at a very high level without
developing into a social phobia.
People who experience social
phobia by contrast have very severe, persistent, and irrational fears of social
or performance situations in which they anticipate that embarrassment may
occur. The DSM- IV (diagnostic manual for mental health clinicians) defines
social phobia as consisting of the following:
Marked and persistent fear
of social or performance situations involving exposure to unfamiliar people or
possible scrutiny by others, lasting for at least six months. Concern about
humiliating or embarrassing oneself.
Anxiety usually produced
by exposure to the social situation.
Recognition that the fears
are excessive or unreasonable.
Avoidance of feared
Significant distress or impairment.
A social phobia may be
somewhat limited, such as a fear of talking or performing in public, eating in
public, using public restrooms, or writing in front of others, or may involve a
much broader array of social situations such as a general fear of functioning
inadequately while interacting with or in front of others. In both of these
forms of social phobia, people repeatedly judge themselves as performing less
adequately than they actually do.
A social phobia may
interfere significantly with one's life. If an individual is unable to interact
with others or speak in public, or is unable to perform important
responsibilities it may have a huge impact upon their life. An individual who
cannot eat in public may reject invitations for dinner or other social
engagements. Since most people with the social phobias keep their fears secret,
their social reluctance is often misinterpreted as lack of interest, snobbery or
Social phobias are believed
to be experienced by approximately 8% of the population, with around three women
for every two men experiencing social phobia in a given year. This disorder
often begins in late childhood or adolescence and may persist for many years,
sometimes with fluctuating intensity.
Information from Ronald J.
Comerís Abnormal Psychology
Additional information and
web page by Paul Susic M.A. Licensed Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate
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