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Frequently Asked Questions about Social Phobia

Social phobia — also known as social anxiety disorder — is a mental health condition where a person becomes anxious when faced with interacting in social situations. The anxiety the person experiences is greater than most people’s anxiety in similar situations, and in fact, can often cause them to avoid or keep to a minimum any situations where they may be in a social group of people (such as at a party or gathering).

How serious is social phobia?

The impact varies with the individual. For some, social anxiety is limited to a very specific kind of performance, such as giving a speech or playing a musical instrument for an audience. For others, the anxiety is much more generalized and can prevent them from eating in public restaurants or using public lavatories. It can interfere with education and affect building and maintaining friendships or romantic relationships.

Why is this considered a mental health condition and not just one of many different kinds of normal personalities?

The answer lies in the severe effects social phobia can have on everyday functioning. People with generalized social phobia are not just a little nervous. Their lives are dictated by the need to either avoid certain situations or endure them with extreme anxiety.

When is the earliest in life that a person might display symptoms of social phobia?

Various studies have shown that up to 10 percent of children may have a shy and anxious predisposition from earliest childhood. Whether these are the people who go on to develop social phobia remains to be answered. Most studies of social phobia have indicated that the average age of disorder onset is in the teenage years.

Can social phobia just go away by itself?

Generally social phobia does not just go away on its own in most people. Social phobia is generally viewed as a chronic condition requiring intervention. Some people can conquer it on their own if they develop the appropriate skills. In most cases, however, professional assistance is recommended.

Are there any diagnostic tests for social phobia?

Social phobia cannot be detected through a blood sample or an X-ray. Neither can many diseases and conditions. Instead, social anxiety disorder is diagnosed based on information provided to a physician or therapist during a clinical interview.

Does social phobia run in families?

Having a family member with social phobia appears to heighten one’s risk slightly for developing it. The family influence appears to be related to both genetic and environmental sources. There may be, for instance, a genetic predisposition for a person to be at greater risk for having social anxiety disorder, but it’s not something triggered in everyone who has the predisposition.

Can social phobia be prevented?

Because scientists are still striving to determine what causes the disorder, they do not know how to prevent social phobia. Mental health professionals urge people who suspect they have a problem to seek treatment right away. With early intervention, there is hope that as quality-of-life improves, some of the problems related to social phobia can be avoided or reduced. People with social phobia, for example, are at an increased risk of alcoholism. With proper medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy, the use of alcohol as self-medication may be prevented.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Social Phobia

John Hauser, M.D.

John Hauser, M.D. is a retired psychiatrist who practiced in a European Union country for over 40 years. He has written occasional articles for various magazines and websites.

APA Reference
Hauser, J. (2020). Frequently Asked Questions about Social Phobia. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.