Social Phobia

Social phobia is distinguished by a fear of public humiliation or embarrassment. It is one of several phobia disorders, which are all typified by excessive, specific, and consistent fear and avoidance of an object, activity, or situation. People with social phobia may avoid doing activities in public such as eating or speaking, as well as using public bathrooms. Ultimately, someone with social phobia fear that people they do not know may judge them, which would cause them to have anxiety. Most commonly, social phobia develops between early adolescence and age 25 (Schneier et al., 1992).

The following conditions are covered by the term, “social phobia”:

  • Social anxiety disorder, a diagnosis referring to clinically excessive social anxiety
  • Social anxiety, the experience of anxiety (emotional discomfort, fear, apprehension, or worry) regarding social situations in general
  • Specific social phobia, social anxiety occurring only in specific situations, such as a fear of public speaking

Social anxiety, also called social phobia,[1][2] is anxiety (emotional discomfort, fear, apprehension, or worry) about social situations, interactions with others, and being evaluated or scrutinized by other people.[3] It is typically characterized by an intense, ego-drivenfear of what others are thinking about them (specifically fear of embarrassment, criticism, rejection, etc.), which results in the individual feeling insecure, and that they are not good enough for other people, resulting in intense fear and anxiety in social situations, and the assumption that peers will automatically reject them in social situations.[4][

The difference between social anxiety and normal apprehension of social situations is that social anxiety involves an intense feeling of fear in social situations and especially situations that are unfamiliar or in which one will be watched or evaluated by others. The feeling of fear is so great that in these types of situations one may be so worried that he or she feels anxious just thinking about them and will go to great lengths to avoid them.

Developmental social anxiety occurs early in childhood as a normal part of the development of social functioning, and is a stage that most children grow out of, but it may persist or resurface and grow into chronic social anxiety.[5] People vary in how often they experience social anxiety and in which kinds of situations.

Overcoming social anxiety depends on the person and the situation. In some cases it can be relatively easy—just a matter of time for many individuals—yet for some people social anxiety can become a very difficult, painful and even disabling problem that is chronic in nature. The reasons are unknown. Social anxiety can be related to shyness or anxiety disorders or other emotional or temperamental factors, but its exact nature is still the subject of research and theory and the causes may vary depending on the individual. Recovery from chronic social anxiety is possible in many cases, but usually only with some kind of therapy or sustained self-help or support group work.[6]

A psychopathological (chronic and disabling) form of social anxiety is called social phobia or social anxiety disorder, and is a chronic problem that can result in a reduced quality of life. Overcoming social anxiety of this type can be very difficult without getting assistance from therapists, psychologists or support groups. Social anxiety can also be self-integrated and persistent for people who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, which can also make the social anxiety harder to overcome, especially if ignored.[3]


  1. ^ abSocial Anxiety Support, What is Social Anxiety? 2007.
  2. ^ abThomas A. Richards, Ph.D., Director, Social Anxiety Institute, Why We Prefer the Term Social Anxiety to Social Phobia 2003.
  3. ^ abcdefg Harold Leitenberg (1990) “Handbook of Social and Evaluation Anxiety”, ISBN 0-306-43438-5
  4. ^ Chris Nosal. “How To Beat Social Anxiety”. Retrieved 2012-09-24.
  5. ^ ab Albano, A.M. & Detweiler, M.F. (2001) The Developmental and Clinical Impact of Social Anxiety and Social Phobia in Children and Adolescents. In Hofmann, S.G. and DiBartolo, P.M. (eds). From Social Anxiety to Social Phobia: Multiple Perspectives. Allyn & Bacon.
  6. ^ abcd WebMD “Social Anxiety Disorder”