3 Ways to Manage Social Phobia


By: Brian M Murray, MS, IMH

Social phobia is a very common anxiety disorder. One of the most common forms of social phobia which many people can identify with is stage fright. Social phobia is not to be confused with antisocial behavior or antisocial personality disorder which is identified as a pervasive pattern of disregard and violation of the rights of others. Social phobia has to do with fear and worry of people and events that involve other people. People with social phobia worry about being viewed in a negative way or scrutinized by others in social situations in where they are unfamiliar with the other people.

While fear of public speaking is the most common form of this condition there are other areas that you may not be aware of such as being afraid to go into public bathrooms, eating and drinking alone or even doing everyday tasks such as going to the grocery store. Often this person will walk into a room and keep their back to the wall or stay close to an exit should they begin to feel panicky. Physical sensations begin to develop such as increased heart rate, sweating and shallow short breathing.

If you currently have social phobia or feel you are a person who may be experiencing it here are 3 ways quick ways on how to manage it.

·         Acceptance. Understand are many people who suffer from social phobia and there is no shame in it. Sometimes there is more worrying about the worry than anything else. Meeting unknown people can and does often make people nervous. Underneath this feeling is anxiety and nervousness is the underlying belief that you will be judged by others. Losing the negative thought and replacing it with a positive one can go a long way. Try looking at it from the viewpoint that people are usually positive and engaging when meeting others for the first time.

·         Challenge your perception of where you are. Just because you are in a room full of people does not mean that they are all thinking about you. Reality is most people are often too busy thinking about themselves and the activity they are involved with. Dropping the view of being perfect in front of others can also be highly effective.

·         Desensitization exercises. Desensitizing is a process that increases frequency and intensity of interaction with others as you progress. For example, if you are trying to overcome the anxiety of going to the grocery store, drive through the parking lot every day for a week. Next time, park and sit for about 5-10 minutes. Keep repeating, go to the door and walk away, go back and walk inside and leave, next walk inside down a couple isles and leave, next walk inside and buy one item and leave. There, you did it; you went to the store, parked, walked inside and bought something. Next time buy a few items, keep going. This can work well at social gatherings too. Walk in and stay for 5 minutes and leave and keep returning and staying a little longer each time.

Most people with social phobia often realize that when the event is over they will tell themselves something along the lines of “that wasn’t so bad, I’m not sure what the fuss was all about.” The reason for this is the fear is based on a perception of what might happen and not the reality of the situation.


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