Fear of Being Evaluated Negatively in Social Situations

No one likes to be made fun of especially among their peers. This has become a problem for some and perhaps even more so because of the readily available use of technology that can allow you to avoid coming in contact with real people. Let’s talk about Social Phobias.

It has never been uncommon to find individuals who live with a certain dread of the potential to be picked on by others. You may remember your first day in high school and the intimidation you may have felt as older students made sure you understood who was in control.

What Causes Social Phobias?

While this fear can be learned by observing others and some may argue it has some element of hereditary mystique to it I think a lot of social phobia is based on the trauma of being the recipient of unwanted negative attention. This could be demonstrated as having a name that is easy to make fun of, clothing that is out of favor with most kids, a hairstyle gone wrong, words spoken that opened the door to ridicule or facial or bodily features that may be considered different by peers.

These individuals often have a few friends who seem to understand them and accept their idiosyncrasies. These individuals may allow these select friends to be close to them, but they will avoid circumstances that bring them in contact with a larger group.

Interestingly many of these individuals have no problem connecting with people by way of the Internet or cell phone. In many cases these online friends are people they don’t know, but somehow the Internet places everyone on a level playing field. Besides you never have to actually meet them. So, for social phobic personalities this environment feels somehow safe.  In fact many who have social fears may conclude that engaging others online is a perfectly acceptable substitute for interaction with others in a face-to-face situation.

Symptoms of Social Phobia

The primary symptom would be a sense of profound panic when in the company of many other people. These individuals will struggle in group settings and may ultimately embarrass themselves in the company of people they try very hard not to even be noticed by.

Other symptoms may include…

  • Air hunger
  • Trembling
  • Nausea
  • Feeling faint
  • Dry mouth
  • Crying
  • Urge to flee
  • In worse cases a loss of bodily control

The anxiety will be highly visible among those with social phobia. They may learn to tolerate work or school settings, but they do not wish to be noticed or even spoken to. While some may be kind to these individuals they feel there is great risk in trusting someone who may make their life miserable.

How to Overcome Social Phobia

Because this fear is so debilitating therapy is often the best first step. There may be some fears where education can help you learn to stop the cycle of fear, but in this case the fear generally started with an incident in which you did not feel safe or were evaluated negatively in a public setting. The trauma of that event has made life especially difficult.

The therapy might include how to manage interpersonal relationships, appropriate boundaries and ways to manage the anxiety you feel in public.

The fear of being evaluated negatively in public is also referred to as:

  • Social phobia
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