The 7 signs that help detect social phobia

It is normal to feel nervous or anxious in front of certain complex social situations, especially when you have to deal with people you do not know or know little about, such as a first date, a university oral or a dinner where you meet your in-laws. The combination of factors to consider, like not knowing what first impression you’re going to make or having to deal with a series of expectations, can play tricks on you from time to time; in this sense, even the most outgoing and self-confident people are not immune to feeling nervous in front of others from time to time.

On the other hand, hay quienas show a tendency to shynessso that they are more or less predisposed to worry about the image they give to others, which is sometimes problematic, but which can even be perceived favorably in certain cultures.

Now there are cases where the generation of stress and anxiety in front of others reaches such an extreme that it is considered pathological, and in such situations neither the background nor the personality predispositions are the cause. principal of what is happening. When this happens, we are faced with social phobia, a very debilitating anxiety disorder that sometimes goes unnoticed because it is perceived as a form of shyness. Therefore, in this article I will summarize what are the main signs that can detect social phobiasomething necessary to go see mental health professionals and receive a diagnosis and treatment.

Typical signs of social phobia

Social phobia is characterized by an intense and seemingly uncontrollable pattern of anxiety that accompanies the person in any social relationship with unknown or semi-unknown people that they have in their daily life. Consciously, the person experiences it as an extreme fear of “what she will say”, a disproportionate fear of looking bad, making a fool of yourself, or being criticized or ridiculedsomething that leads him to try to avoid these interactions or back out of them as soon as they have happened.

However, social phobia presents not only quantitative but also qualitative differences with respect to shyness. Therefore, although neither the person who suffers from said disorder nor the people around him are mental health professionals, they can identify certain red flags to identify him (roughly, estimating that he there is a good chance of being confronted with a case of social phobia) and seek psychotherapeutic help as soon as possible.

1. Intense anxiety triggered immediately in social situations

One of the main signs that always accompany people with social phobia is the appearance of psychological and physiological symptoms related to great anxiety whenever they find themselves in social situations with which they do not have close confidence. : cold sweats, tremors and muscle stiffness, rapid pulse, impaired breathing, etc. Having developed this disorder, these symptoms appear systematically and almost without exception when it comes to people we know little, so we anticipate them, we know that it will happen to us if we meet certain people or they talk to us. This consistency in anxiety symptoms is very unusual in those who are simply shy..

Moreover, those who experience shyness on a daily basis usually have enough capacity to hide their nervousness or at least some of it, while people with social phobia experience a real loss of control over their bodies when they undergo these “explosions” of anxiety. .

2. Anticipatory anxiety and the need for control to compensate

As long as they anticipate social situations or events in which there will be more people in the future, people with social phobia usually develop anticipatory anxiety; they suffer from fear of their own anxiety reaction, so they sabotage themselves by trying in every way possible to control everyone and there is one of their movements and actions in general in front of others. This, of course, it overflows its ability to divide attention into several taskswhich increases the feeling of being out of control and they behave in a way perceived as strange by others, which further fuels the anxious reaction.

3. Avoid crowded places

Frequently avoiding crowded places or spaces where group or massive social events of any kind take place is another of the classic signs that can alert us to a possible case of social phobia. This way we try to minimize the likelihood of meeting someone interested in starting a conversation or introducing someone to us.

4. Obsessive thoughts

The obsessive thoughts of people with social phobia usually appear both in social settings and in times when they are alone. The person blames themselves for past situations in which they looked bad or felt ridiculed, and revisits those memories over and over trying to “fix” them so they don’t make them feel bad, achieving the opposite effect.

These thoughts are about not fitting in with othersfear of being judged and fear that other people will notice your own comfort or the anxiety you feel.

5. Systematic avoidance of unwanted encounters

Fear of what other people think usually takes the form of fear of being judged negatively by other people we relate to. This worry is mainly related to the fear that others will say bad things about us, that they will perceive us in a negative way or that they will end up hating us.

In people with social phobia, this phenomenon reaches the extreme of shaping the structure of the person’s daily routines; for example, it influences your choice of route to get to work or school, your availability (or rather your absence) for group events that friends of friends can attend, etc. Avoiding complex social encounters is something planned.

6. Loss of social relationships

In the long term, the relationships of people with social phobia deteriorate, due to the inability of people with this disorder to nurture and care for them. People in this situation try to have almost total control over who they can meet and who they can’t.which hinders spontaneous social interactions or open invitations to others.

7. Self-fulfilling prophecies

People with social phobia usually prophesy in advance, before it happens, the seemingly catastrophic outcome of the social relationships they will have to form in the future.

This psychological phenomenon is known as “self-fulfilling prophecy”. and it is common among many people with phobias of all kinds. In the case of social phobias, the person thinks about everything that is going to go wrong in a social event or situation, something that ends up happening in the future because from the first moment he approaches these encounters with a hyper-vigilant and defensive mentality

Are you looking for psychotherapy services?

If you want to start a process of psychological therapy to overcome an anxiety disorder, contact me.

My number is Paloma Rey Cardona and I am a general health psychologist dedicated to the attention of adults and the child and youth population.

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