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Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is also called a social phobia. An individual with this problem has persistent fear of social situations, and is fearful of embarrassment. Certain social situations provoke more anxiety than others, and individuals with this problem may sometimes develop a panic attack in response to some specific social event. (e.g. giving a speech). People with social anxiety realize that their fear is exaggerated, but they still cannot control it. They tend to avoid situations in which they need to perform in front of others, and this tends to interfere with life adjustment in some way.

As many as 10 percent of the population may experience social anxiety to some degree, although they all do not seek treatment. Many people are fearful of public speaking, but manage to avoid it and cope well within a slightly more limited life sphere. Some individuals have more severe social anxiety, and are even fearful of talking to strangers in any capacity. These people have more serious adjustment problems, and are more likely to seek treatment. Social anxiety tends to develop during teen years, but often in children described as excessively shy.

Psychological treatment for social phobia uses techniques appropriate to the presenting symptoms. This depends on what triggers the anxiety, whether the individual has panic attacks, and the severity of the symptoms. Most often a combination of behavioral interventions is used with cognitive therapy. The behavioral treatment may include relaxation training and systematic desensitization, as well as immersion therapy. Cognitive therapy helps you to develop cognitive blocking mechanisms when the anxiety begins to build, and also helps you understand why the the social anxiety symptoms occur.  This allows you to develop different ways of coping with the anxiety.

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