What is Social Phobia?
Social phobia is defined as a disorder marked by fear of social situations, such as eating or drinking in the presence of other people, talking to other people or speaking in front of groups of people. In addition to a high degree of self-devaluation many people with social phobia perceive their own behavior in social situations as “inadequate” or ‚“embarrassing”. When assessing their own behavior people with social phobia often criticize themselves (“Others would have done better!” or “My performance was nothing special, everyone could have done it!”).
Since people with social phobia experience in social situations a very high degree of discomfort and tension, they try to avoid these situations as best they can. The avoidance of social situations, however, leads to several negative long-term consequences.
Avoidance of social situations
People who suffer from social phobia usually have a very exaggerated fear of attracting negative attention or of embarrassing themselves. This fear is often so severe that more and more social situations are avoided.
- Short-term consequences:
For a brief moment the avoidance behavior decreases the level of discomfort, and most sufferers experience a short-lasting feeling of relief. Then, shortly afterwards, in many patients feelings of disappointment and frustration set in.
- Long-term consequences:
The disappointment over this “failure” leads many people with social anxiety to growing insecurity and increasing self-depreciation (“Now I can't even do that anymore… - I'm no good at all ...”). This can ultimately lead to a vicious circle in which the person affected is increasingly concerned about his own “failures”. In addition, the fear-related avoidance of social situations often interferes with the acquisition of important social skills.
Although most people with social anxiety suffer greatly from these long-term consequences, and they themselves are often very aware that the avoidance is not the best solution to their fear of social situations, due to the initial brief drop in discomfort they are caught in this vicious circle.