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Social Phobia

Social Phobia is as old as Hippocrates, and yet it’s taken until only recently for the medical profession to fully recognize Social Anxiety Disorder as a serious, and disabling condition that renders millions of people incapable of what many others take for granted every day – namely interacting with others in society.

The Greek philosopher Hippocrates is thought to be the first to describe the symptoms of Social Phobia when writing in 400BC of the person who “through bashfulness” will “dare not come in company” and who “thinks every man observes him.” Fast forward to 2010, and this one bashful person has become millions of people, men and women, the world over who are believed to have social anxiety disorder. Indeed, in the United States, it is said to be the third most common psychological complaint affecting some 15 million of its citizens.

Yet it’s not just Hippocrates who has written on the subject, for Charles Darwin did so in the late 19th century, followed by psychologists in the 1930s. But it wasn’t until the 60s that Social Phobia was given stand alone status from other anxiety disorders and had its first official entry as a separate entity in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association. And it is only since 1985 that real attention has been focused on the condition by the medical profession, culminating in the release of Paroxetine in the 1990s as the first US-approved drug to treat social anxiety disorder.

But what is Social Phobia? Generally, it is when a person finds it extremely difficult and uncomfortable being in public places or social situations. Work, job interviews, meetings, shopping, bars, clubs, and even being around family can all leave the person with a social anxiety disorder feeling like they are continually being watched, or stared at, or judged which leaves them feeling highly anxious. It is the height of self-consciousness. This person simply can’t relax or enjoy themselves in public. The only place they feel properly comfortable is behind the closed door at home.
Social Phobia

Social anxiety disorder is the person in the shopping queue who feels everyone is looking at them. It’s the person at home too scared to make a simple phone call to the gas company to report a fault, or the student about to start college for the first time who dreads having to introduce themselves to the rest of the class. It’s the woman at work who would like to go to the office party but is too nervous about mingling with people she hardly knows, and it’s the man on the street struggling to get to the bus stop for fear of all eyes being on him, and possibly having to make chit-chat with a stranger.

It is people with Social Phobia who are often seen as being shy, quiet, backward, withdrawn, inhibited, unfriendly, nervous, aloof, and disinterested. The irony is, people with social phobia know they are being irrational, they just can’t stop the feeling. And because they can’t stop feeling that way, people with social anxiety disorder always look to avoid social situations, or mix with other people. But people with this disorder want desperately to be seen as “normal” socially. They want to make friends, and want to be involved, and feel part of, and enjoy social interaction. They just can’t.

A person suffering from Social Phobia will experience significant emotional distress when being introduced to other people, or being teased or criticized, or if made the center of attention, or if being watched doing something. Making small talk with strangers or at parties or work is difficult, and being faced with having to speak in front of others is a total horror scenario, as is dealing with people in authority who the socially anxious will feel is somehow “important” thus putting them ill at ease. In fact any social situation involving other people will put the person suffering from Social Phobia in a state of unease that leaves them feeling helpless, anxious, and incapable of coping with the intense fear.

The effects of social anxiety disorder can cause the affected to experience trembling, a dry throat and mouth, bring on a racing heart, and blushing, making it hard to swallow, and induce muscle twitches, along with the feeling of excessive fear. It is the fact that the intense anxiety is constant when in these social situations that is the most common, and excruciating feature for the socially anxious.

And the worst thing of all is, unlike other physical or psychological problems, Social Phobia doesn’t go away. It is there every day, day after day...

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"I am a recent user of the Linden Method (indeed just started last week!) I was suffering from anxiety and panick attacks since last year, it got so disturbing I thought that even death was better, my thoughts drove me crazy and also these feelings which came with derealisation and depersonalisation. I then found the linden method as I was looking at videos on YouTube, about anxiety.

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Karin Regenass

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