What is social phobia?
Most people feel nervous in certain social situations, such as at a job interview, a high school reunion or giving a speech. Most of us worry about what we're going to say, do or even wear during events like these. These situations often become easier with some experience. However, for people who have social phobia (also called social anxiety disorder), these events and other social situations can be very frightening and disabling.
People who have social phobia usually begin to notice it when they are in their early teens, although some people have had it for as long as they can remember. For others, it develops later in life, as social demands increase. Social phobia often runs in families. Sometimes it leads to other problems, such as depression or substance abuse.
How often is social phobia a problem?
Some people have social phobia in only a few situations, such as performing in public or talking to an important person. Others will have it in many situations, which may include using a public bathroom, eating in a restaurant, talking on the telephone or signing their name in front of people (such as when writing and signing a check at the grocery store).
Social Anxiety Disorder: A Common, Underrecognized Mental Disorder by TJ Bruce, Ph.D. and SA Saeed, M.D. (American Family Physician November 15, 1999, http://www.aafp.org/afp/991115ap/2311.html)
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff