Social Phobia, or Social Anxiety Disorder, is an anxiety disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in social situations. People with social phobia are afraid of being judged or criticized by others. Extreme fear of embarrassment and humiliation usually provokes unpleasant physical sensations such as heart palpitations, shaking and trembling, faintness, blushing, and profuse sweating, and could result in a full blown panic attack. People with social phobia would often try to avoid the situations that make them anxious, such as public speaking, public rest rooms, or eating in front of others. Social anxiety is the third most common psychological problem and affects about 15 million Americans in any given year. Due to lack of awareness of the public and of medical and mental health care professionals, people with social anxiety are misdiagnosed almost 90% of the time.
CBT is a highly effective treatment for social anxiety. In treatment, the person learns to identify distorted and inaccurate thoughts, and to react differently to the situations that provoke anxiety. In addition, the patient learns anxiety management techniques, effective breathing and relaxation techniques, mindfulness, and better social skills, which can help improve confidence and self-esteem. As confidence improves, patients gradually expose themselves to the situations that had originally provoked the social phobia, as they habituate to the anxiety and feel more comfortable in social situations.