The holiday season provides wonderful opportunities for people to attend social gatherings, whether the office party, family get-togethers, visiting with friends from out of town, catching up with acquaintances, and just spending time with loved ones. But for people with social phobias, this seemingly enjoyable frivolity can at times be a source of stress or anxiety. According to the Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology, anxiety disorders affect 20 percent of the US population, with 8-13 percent of the population dealing with social phobia in particular. Social phobia involves a fear of one or more social or performance situations, such as public speaking, conversations, or meeting new people. The fear is of being embarrassed, humiliated, or judged by others.
Die Schüchterne (The Shy) by Hermann von Kaulbach (1846-1909)
Social phobia can affect performance at work or school, daily routine, and social interaction or relationships. Those with social phobia fear that they will behave incompetently, leading others to make negative judgments. Social phobia is not the momentary anxiety one may feel when encountering a new situation such as a first date or public speaking engagement; rather, social phobia symptoms are experienced for at least 6 months at a time, and for some people, are experienced regularly over a lifetime.
Angst (Anxiety) by Edvard Munch (1863-1944)
A common treatment used by professional psychologists and those in related fields is exposure therapy. This treatment consists of repeated and systematic exposure of patients to situations that they fear. Exposure can be gradual, or patients can confront the most difficult situation first. If you are concerned that you may suffer from social phobia, seek advice from a professional before making personal treatment decisions.
Your local librarian cannot diagnose any social phobia condition you may suspect you are experiencing, but we can certainly provide you with a friendly and welcoming environment to learn more about it. We can connect with books and articles examining social phobia, written by experts or those who have experienced it firsthand. The following titles provide some useful information: