It’s common for someone to be a little shy or uncomfortable when meeting new people. For people with social phobia, though, the fear is anything but mild. These individuals feel such high anxiety when around others that they actually experience a physical reaction. PubMed Health lists some of the complaints a social phobic has when interacting with others:
- Difficulty talking
- Profuse sweating
You can imagine how these unsettling symptoms could be a major problem in everyday life. A study from Ontario focuses on how social phobia can diminish quality of life and disrupt normal functioning.
What Was Found in the Study?
Over 8,000 people who lived in Ontario, Canada were administered a survey on mental health. The participants ranged from age fifteen to age sixty-four.
The researchers mentioned that 5 to 8 percent of people suffer from social phobia every year. This finding, which was supported by three separate studies, showed social phobia to be the most common of anxiety disorders. Figures such as these illustrate the importance of exploring effective treatments for people with social anxiety.
The writers of the study noted that surprisingly, some people do not recognize the severity of social phobia. Even professionals can dismiss it as being less harmful than other anxiety disorders.
The extent to which social phobia can affect quality of life is discussed at length in the study. Participants were shown to be just as negatively affected by their phobia as people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and panic disorder. Social phobics also described having more financial issues and suicidal tendencies. Holding a steady job and maintaining healthy relationships can be extremely difficult for people with severe social phobia.
Social phobia was shown to interfere with daily functioning as much as chronic physical ailments like arthritis. This finding is further supported by the high prevalence of major depression in social phobics. People with major depressive disorder are more vulnerable to developing a number of illnesses and are also a higher suicide risk.
Essentially, social phobia has the potential to negatively impact all aspects of life, especially when combined with major depression.
What Can Help with Social Phobia?
Psychotherapy, sometimes with medication, is usually recommended for social phobia. Individuals who have high social anxiety are able to practice their social skills and talk about any problem they are having with a therapist.
The medications typically prescribed for social anxiety disorder are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or anti-anxiety pills.
MayoClinic advises people with social phobia to be patient with psychotherapy, as progress takes time. It’s also recommended that medications are given enough time to take effect (sometimes a few weeks), and that any side effects are discussed with a doctor in case a change in brand is needed.