Many of us may get nervous or feel a little self-conscious at some time in our lives. For example we may get a little apprehensive when we are presenting or if asked to make a speech at a wedding or other social event, during an interview or at exam time. Social phobia or social anxiety disorder is however more than this. It is a debilitating condition that affects a surprisingly large portion of the population.
It is the fear of social situations where the sufferer feels he is being judged and evaluated by others. Carrying out even the simplest tasks such as eating or drinking in public can sometimes become unmanageable. Social phobia may be triggered by:
- Meeting new people
- Being in situations where they are or perceive themselves to be the centre of attention
- Public speaking of any sort
- Being watched while performing a task
- Dealing with authority figures
- Being put on the spot
Very often the sufferer will have no idea why they are so affected by this condition. They are often seen as aloof, disinterested in others, unfriendly, inhibited and socially inept. They may go to great lengths to cover up their anxiety, often by pretending to be more outgoing than they really are or playing the clown. This is usually unsustainable and may lead the way to using other means of coping such as excessive drinking or substance abuse.
Any situation where the individual thinks they may be ‘on show’ may produce psychological and physical symptoms such as:
- Intense fear and anxiety
- Dryness of the mouth
- Inability to speak coherently
- Feeling ‘less than’
- Racing heart
- Negative thought patterns
Because the underlying cause of social phobia is psychological and often out of the awareness of the individual, it responds well to hypnotherapy.