A person with Social Phobia experiences significant fear of certain social or performance situations. The person fears that either they will act in a way that will be humiliating or embarrassing to them, or that others will observe their anxiety and make a negative judgement.
Exposure to these social or performance situations entails high anxiety and, possibly, panic attacks. Although the person recognizes that the fear is excessive or unreasonable, they nevertheless avoid these situations, or endure them under intense anxiety or distress.
This avoidance and the anxious anticipation and distress experienced in social and performance situations interferes significantly with a person's normal functioning. It affects their relationships, social functioning and work performance. For example, a person may choose a job that is does not involve much interaction with other people.
Social Phobia is twice as prevalent in women than in men and typically begins in early teenage years. It used to be thought that people with social phobia lacked social skills. More recently however, the thought is that people with social phobia are actually more attuned to social cues, and thus more sensitive to unskillful behavior.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a widely used treatment for people with social phobia. Based on the cognitive behavioral model, one’s anxiety is reinforced and maintained by negative thoughts and avoidance of social and performance situations. Therefore therapy will focus on helping a person to change the way they think or react in social situations in order to ultimately experience less anxiety.