Social phobia involves overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. People who suffer from it have a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being judged by others and being embarrassed by their own actions. Although an estimated 5.3 million adult Americans have this phobia, it can be treated successfully with carefully targeted psychotherapy or medications.
"In any social situation, I felt fear. I would be anxious before I even left the house, and it would escalate as I got closer to a college class, a party, or whatever. I would feel sick to my stomach -- it almost felt like I had the flu. My heart would pound, my palms would get sweaty, and I would get this feeling of being removed from myself and from everybody else.
"When I would walk into a room full of people, I'd turn red and it would feel like everybody's eyes were on me. I was embarrassed to stand off in a corner by myself, but I couldn't think of anything to say to anybody. It was humiliating. I felt so clumsy, I couldn't wait to get out.
"I couldn't go on dates, and for a while I couldn't even go to class. My sophomore year of college I had to come home for a semester. I felt like such a failure."
Social phobia, also called social anxiety disorder, involves overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. People with this condition have a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions. Their fear may be so severe that it interferes with:
- Social relationships
- Work or school
- Other ordinary activities.
While many people with social phobia recognize that their fear of being around people may be excessive or unreasonable, they are unable to overcome it. They often worry for days or weeks in advance of a dreaded situation.