What is social phobia?
Social phobia involves a marked and persistent fear
of social or performance situations in which embarrassment may occur.
(See also "Specific Phobia" for Specific Phobias)
Fears may be associated with most social situations
related to public performance or social interactions, such as
participating in small groups, meeting strangers, dating or playing
What are the signs & symptoms of social phobia?
Cognitive signs and symptoms include thoughts such as:
- “I’ll look anxious and stupid.”
- “People will think I’m weird.”
Physical signs and symptoms include:
- dry mouth.
Behavioural signs and symptoms include:
- avoiding social gatherings, parties, meetings
- avoiding public speaking
What are the causes & risk factors of social phobia?
There are no clear-cut answers as to why some
people develop social phobias, although research suggests that various
factors may be involved. Like most mental health problems, social
phobias appear to be caused by a combination of biological and
psychological factors and challenging life experiences. These include:
- stressful or traumatic life events (e.g., bullying)
- a family history of anxiety disorders
- other medical or psychiatric problems.
What is the treatment for social phobia?
Many psychological treatments, such as relaxation
training, meditation, biofeedback and stress management, can help with
social phobias. Many people with social phobias also benefit from
supportive counselling or couples or family therapy. However, experts
agree that the most effective form of treatment for social phobias is
cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT for social phobia may include
exposure therapy which involves direct or imagined controlled exposure
to objects or situations that arouse anxiety. Medications have also been
proven effective, and many people receive CBT and medication in
Adapted from Anxiety Disorders: An Information Guide © 2009 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Where can I find help, treatment and support for social phobia?
Treatment from CAMH
Help for Families from CAMH
Ontario Mental Health Helpline (open 24/7 for treatment anywhere in Ontario)
Where can I find more information related to social phobia?
Anxiety: An Information Guide (PDF)
Anxiety Disorder 101 (online tutorial) Please Note: Your pop-up blocker must be turned off to view this tutorial
What Older Adults, Their Families and Friends Need to Know about… Anxiety (PDF)
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy: An Information Guide (PDF)
Understanding Psychiatric Medications: Antidepressants
Understanding Psychiatric Medications: Benzodiazepines