Social phobia: symptoms, causes and treatment

Being nervous in certain social situations can be normal, as sometimes it is a natural response to speaking in public, having a date with someone, or being subjected to similar situations. However, when daily interactions cause a lot of anxiety, shame, insecurity, and intense fear for the opinions of others, the person may suffer from social phobia (social anxiety disorder).

In this article we will see how to recognize social phobia, And what to do.

    How to detect social phobia?

    Social phobia affects us both physically and mentally, being the incapacitating fear and anxiety for the person, as it affects them in different areas of his life (work, social, personal).

    We talk about phobia when the intensity with which the person feels fear is unwarranted, disproportionate and reduces the ability to act by causing emotional blockage in the person.

    Marta Garrido González, psychologist specializing in psychologists Málaga Psicoabreu, points out that people with social phobia are aware that their feelings are irrational but still do their best to avoid facing the dreaded situation due to the anxiety of ‘anticipation.

    So, long before the person has to face the dreaded situation, he or she already starts to suffer from anxiety because you can’t stop thinking about it.

    Anticipation can cause the subject to act inappropriately, leading to a vicious cycle, as it causes greater fear for future situations. This fear must significantly interfere with your life in order to make this diagnosis.

    Difference between social phobia and shyness

    Social anxiety disorder is different from shyness because shy people can participate in social situations (Even if they are embarrassed or nervous), and people with a social phobia are unable, in most cases coming to isolate themselves from the people around them.

    Thus, the characteristics of shyness are as follows:

    • The intensity and duration are proportional to the stimulus that caused it.
    • The anxiety gradually disappears.
    • Acceptance and learning.

    Here is an example:

    A student must present a work that she has done in front of all her classmates. This situation generates stress and nerves, because he is afraid that things will go wrong, that he will forget what he had to show, etc. It is a rational and expected fear, because it is a situation that the person does not perform normally and has no practice (cause that generates more nervousness).

    The characteristics of social phobia, on the other hand, are as follows:

    • Wishing to become the center of attention.
    • Fear of eating and drinking in public.
    • Afraid of speaking to the public, of speaking to a friend.
    • Fear of being embarrassed in front of an audience.
    • Intensity and duration over time.
    • It affects areas of your life.

    An example of social phobia may be the following:

    In the previous case; we imagine that the person keeps his negative thoughts longer, causing him to lose self-confidence, to have the feeling of failure and constant discomfort.

    The fear is excessive and irrational and the person tends to avoid social interactions (anxious anticipation is inferred from the normal functioning of the individual). The person’s anxiety response can lead them to have an anxiety attack, so that they avoid the dreaded situation or even get stuck (unable to develop an exposure).


    People who suffer from social phobia show extreme anxiety about social situations. It is a persistent and chronic fear that causes symptoms at the physical, cognitive and behavioral level. This phobia can appear due to a certain situation or it can happen by interacting with all those people you don’t know.

    Physical symptoms of anxiety

    These are a common feature among people who suffer from social phobia. A high percentage of patients present palpitations, dizziness, fainting, heart attacks, tremors of hands, feet or voiceDry mouth, stammering, sweating of the hands and body and redness (anxiety and shame). Suffering from very high anxiety levels can lead to panic attacks.

    Psychologists on the Psychoabra team say that physical symptoms they are the ones who get people to go to a consultation looking for psychological therapy.

    Cognitive symptoms

    These are recurring thoughts that we cannot talk about, of inferiority, of shame, of distraction (forgetting what we wanted to say). Anticipation (imagining what will happen), self-critical thoughts (I look silly, I laugh at myself, etc.).

    Emotional and behavioral symptoms

    The most notable are loss of self-confidence, Social isolation, inability to participate in social situations and avoid feared situations.

    the causes

    People with social phobia experience irrational fear in situations where they may be judged by others, So they avoid them. This anxiety disorder can start in adolescence and usually affects men and women equally.

    As with many mental disorders, social phobia results from the interaction of biological and environmental factors.


    Anxiety disorders are generally hereditary, at least in part (genetic and acquired behaviors)

    Structure of the brain

    The core of the amygdala can influence the fear response. So, people who have this hyperactive core may experience an exaggerated fear response (which causes increased anxiety in social situations).


      Social phobia it can be learned behavior. There may be learning relationships of children copying episodes of anxiety from which parents suffer. In addition, some people suffer from anxiety after going through unpleasant and uncomfortable social situations.

      Risk factors

      Several factors can increase the risk of suffering from social anxiety disorder:

      1. Family history

      If your biological parents or siblings have social anxiety disorder, You are more likely to have it

      2. Negative experiences

      Children who suffer from rejection, ridicule, or humiliation may be more likely to develop social anxiety disorder.

      3. Character

      Shy and introverted people when faced with situations, they can be more at risk.

      4. Have an eye-catching appearance

      For example, stammering or facial disfigurement can increase shyness and cause social anxiety disorder in some people.

      Types of social phobia

      There are two types of this anxiety disorder.

      Generalized social phobia

      It is suffered by those who experience high levels of anxiety in the vast majority of social situations and interacting with people.

      Specific social phobia

      It develops when anxiety situations they only appear at certain times (Fear of being watched while eating or drinking, speaking in public, writing in front of others, …)

      psychological treatment

      The team of psychologists from the Psychologists Málaga PsicoAbreu psychology offices specializes in the psychological treatment of social anxiety disorders and social phobia. Psychological therapy is channeled to that the patient loses the fear of certain situations and regains his social life.

      Cognitive behavioral therapy helps identify, understand, and change the thoughts that cause the phobia. In some situations, pharmacological treatment (anxiolytics or antidepressants) is necessary to relieve symptoms of anxiety as well as psychological treatment.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Chambless, DL; Fydrich, T .; Rodebaugh, TL (2008). “Widespread social phobia and avoiding personality disorder: significant distinction or unnecessary duplication?”. Depression and anxiety. 25 (1): 8-19.

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