Social Anxiety (Social Phobia)


An irrational fear of social or performance situations, or irrational fear of scrutiny or harsh judgement by others. The base of the fear is a worry about humiliating or embarassing situations.

Recent studies show social anxiety to be the third most common mental disorder in the United States (8% of the general population suffers from some form of it).

Symptoms

  • intense fear of social or performance situations
  • exposure to the feared social situation almost invariable provokes an anxiety or panic attack
  • patient recognizes that the fear is baseless and irrational
  • triggering situations are avoided entirely or endured with intense distress
  • avoidance and nervous anticipation of triggering events has a strong impact on the social, occupational or other everyday aspects of life
  • duration of fear for at least six months
  • fear or avoidance is NOT triggered by external factors such as alcohol or other substance abuse, and is not a condition of another mental disorder
Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis is made by a medical professional based upon the presence of the symptoms listed above and their impact upon the patients quality of life.

Treatment options include cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy, and exposure therapy. Pharmaceutical options have lately begun to include prescription antidepressants such as Paxil (paroxetine HCI).

Prognosis

The outlook for persons with social phobia is good when sufferers follow treatment options that involve cognitive-behavioral therapy (as much as a 90% success rate).

I've been suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder for as long as I can remember. My life had been severly restricted by my condition.

Many people have laughed at the problems I've had, but just knowing that I am making progress is more than enough to outshine any ridicule. I finally brought myself to enter treatment last year, and for the last couple of months, I have been reaching goals that I before thought were unattainable. Just yesterday, I asked a lovely girl who was sitting next to me in the computer lab (playing Super Bomberman on an emulator, no less) to go out to dinner with me this weekend. She accepted the invitation.

I beg anyone who experiences even a few of the signs of social anxiety disorder to seek a professional opinion from a licensed physchiatrist or other medical professional, and if necessary, enter treatment. You will find that it makes a world of difference, when you can freely return a friendly smile from someone across the room, and find the courage to walk over and start a conversation.

I am not exactly sure when it all started. I was not born with social anxiety. In fact I used to be fearless. Things would just roll off of me. I got made fun of a lot in school because I was intelligent and had a girl's name. But it never really got to me.

I think it must have started some time right after high school ended. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was already definitely showing signs of this problem when I was in the Army. I lived in the barracks for a full year without making any friends at all. I never even went into anyone else's room, not even once.

It only got worse when I came back. I had completely lost all ability to speak to strangers. I could speak when spoken to, but I would never initiate a conversation with anyone.

Sometime around this time was when the telephone phobia started. I did not like to call anyone I didn't know on the phone, for any reason. I can order a pizza, but only because that is something I am confident about, and I know that the pizza person isn't going to say anything that I don't expect. But for anything else I would not call. I would drive a half hour to the store rather than call and ask if they had something.

Finding a new job is basically out of the question. I haven't gotten a job on my own since I was a teenager. I always just got jobs where people I already knew worked. The few real interviews I have had have gone terribly.

I basically cannot function in social situations unless one of my longtime friends are there. I went to the Hollandaise VaporMeet and I didn't really talk to anyone the entire time (except when they talked to me). I had one really terrifying moment where JayBonci called in and wanted to talk to everyone. I just sat there waiting as they passed around the phone, scared to death of my upcoming turn and looking for a way out. My turn came and I talked to Jay briefly without freaking out. I don't think I have ever actually freaked out, but I came close twice at the VaporMeet. The other time was when I was downstairs with everyone. I was nicely buzzed from drinking and just sitting around listening to everyone talk. I had forgotten that I didn't know anyone, and in my mind I was at a party in my hometown and my friends were just not in the same room. Then Void_Ptr called me Boo Boo Kitty which brought reality back quickly, and brought me to the closest thing to a panic attack I ever had. Not that anyone could notice. I will not show any obvious signs of fear to anyone other than friends.

Surprisingly enough, I can speak publicly without almost any problem. Because when you are speaking to a group you can't really see individual reactions to what you are saying, and you have no choice but to keep on speaking. There is no exit when the microphone is in your hand, and no way to escape. I also do rather well at work behind my little counter for the same reasons. There is no escape, although about once a year or so a customer will manage to provoke a fight or flight response in me, which I always get through by taking a fake phone call until I calm down.

Dating stopped for me when I quit drinking. I simply cannot carry on a natural conversation with any possible girlfriends without being completely drunk. I can talk, but it probably isn't going to happen unless they start the conversation. Even if a women does start talking to me, she will find me either phony or boring, as I am too scared to talk about my real passions, as she would most certainly judge me based on those.

I wanted to go back to my old church for years. But every time I did I was so overwhelmed by all the people talking to me, and all their questions that I would not come back for a long time. I just knew that everyone was looking down on me for the lifestyle I had been living, the fact that I didn't have a good job, and the fact that I was still single. I eventually managed to fully rejoin my old church, but I still feel completely worthless anytime someone asks me about my career or marital status.

Eventually it all just starts changing your goals, and your dreams. Right now at age twenty-five I have completely given up any dreams of having a good job, getting a college degree, or having my own home. I no longer even consider such things to be a possibility. My fears have ruled them out, My hopes of ever finding a wife are also beginning to slip away, and that was the last dream I had left. My fears had already slain all of my other dreams years ago.

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