It’s natural to shy in front of others at times or to feel self-conscious, nervous. Anyone can have a sweaty palms, racing heart or fluttering stomach when trying out for chorus, giving a class presentation or asking someone on a first date.
Most people, when they need to, manage to get through these moments, but for some, the anxiety that goes with self-conscious or feeling shy can be extreme. It can seem so unbearable that they might feel too nervous to be unable to make eye contact with classmates in the hallway, avoid chatting with others at the lunch table or give answers in class.
When people feel so anxious and self-conscious that it prevents them from socializing or speaking up most of the time, it’s probably more than shyness. It may be an anxiety condition called social phobia.
Social anxiety (also called social phobia) is a type of anxiety problem. Self-consciousness and extreme feelings of shyness build into a powerful fear. As a result, participating in everyday social situations make a person feels uncomfortable.
People with social phobia can usually interact easily with a few close friends or family. But speaking in public, talking in a group or meeting new people can cause their extreme shyness to kick in.
With social phobia, a person’s extreme shyness, fears of embarrassment and self-consciousness get in the way of life. People with social phobia might dread them — and avoid some of them altogether, instead of enjoying social activities.
Social phobia, like other phobias, is a fear reaction to something that isn’t actually dangerous, although the mind and body react as if the danger is real. This means that someone feels physical sensations of fear, like a faster breathing and heartbeat.
This biological mechanism, when we feel afraid, kicks in. It’s a response built-in nervous system that alerts us to danger so we can protect ourselves. With social phobia, this response gets activated too strongly, too frequently and in situations where it’s out of place.
People who constantly receive disapproving or critical reactions may grow to expect that others will judge them negatively. Being bullied or teased will make people who are already shy likely to retreat into their shells even more. They’ll be scared of disappointing someone or making a mistake and will be more criticism sensitive.
The effect of these negative experiences, with help provided by Family Kickstart Georgia (FKSG) professionals, can be turned around with some focused slow-but-steady effort. Fear can be learned, and it can also be unlearned, too.
People with social phobia can learn to develop confidence, manage fear and coping skills, and stop avoiding things that make them anxious. But it’s not always easy, overcoming social phobia means getting up the courage it takes to go, little by little, beyond what’s comfortable.