Nicholas King
Counselling for Harrow, Pinner & Ruislip

Social Anxiety (Social Phobia)

Social Anxiety or Social Phobia causes the sufferer to experience extreme anxiety in social situations. People who experience this form of anxiety often feel intensely self-conscious and develop the belief that they are at the centre of attention and are being judged or appraised negatively by those around them. When we become socially anxious we may adopt avoidant or withdrawal behaviours in the hope that these will help "save" us from acting in an embarrassing way or experiencing humiliation. For example, we might avoid social events or decline invitations. Leaving early can also act a form of escape but when this is not possible social anxiety forces the sufferer to endure events whilst feeling intensely anxious and fearful. The physical symptoms of social phobia include blushing, sweating and trembling/shaking. Attempts made to hide these symptoms in the belief that they are clearly visible to those we come in to contact with can be counter-productive and actually draw attention to them - whereas if we were able to simply ignore them they might barely be noticeable.

The difficulty with avoidant behaviours is that long-term they become reinforced in the belief that they are a viable coping mechanism that keeps us safe from the feared situation - in reality the opposite is actually true and by not turning up to the party or leaving the meeting early only makes it more difficult to cope on the next occasion and especially so if escape or avoidance is then no longer an option.

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