We have all experienced some kind of social awkwardness during one point or another in our lives. Sometimes we have the fear of talking in front of a large audience or we may feel like we don’t fit in at a social gathering. This is normal on occasion, but when these feeling become more and more frequent preventing a normal life, there is a problem to be addressed. You should see a health care professional, but it may a disorder called social phobia or anxiety.
You might call someone “shy” who has this disorder exhibiting strong feelings of persistent fear when engaging in social situations or interactions. They will even go to the extreme as to completely isolate themselves to avoid these feelings. Up to 13% of the population has been diagnosed with this disorder. It affects an equal part of the population usually first appearing during teenage to young adult years. Besides parties, some situations that might be avoided or feared are: eating and drinking in public, making eye contact with others, being the center of attention, meeting strangers, amongst others.
The majority of social phobia cases can be cured by therapy and/or medication. A person will begin seeing a psychologist who will develop an individualized treatment plan. The patient will learn that their issue is not a permanent personality trait, but rather a learned behavior based on false and unconscious patterns. They will also practice social skills in real life situations until the anxiety decreases to a reasonable level. Prescription drugs may also be involved if cognitive behavioral therapy alone will not work, but they come with many side effects. Self help groups seem to be beneficial so the patient can feel as if they are not alone in this battle.
There has been a debate on the causes of social anxiety from hereditary to environmental. The most apparent one seems to be the experiences childhood and the parental upbringing involved. If the parents are shy, constantly worrying or are overprotective, then the kids will feed off those feelings and the phobia will manifest itself. The key is to seek help if you or a friend needs it – it is never too late to shine.