What is Social Phobia?

Social Anxiety Disorder, or as it is commonly used, “Social Phobia” is an anxiety disorder in which the individual has the anxiety of being judged by others, the thought that he will be embarrassed or disgraced in social environments, and a very specific and constant fear in this regard. It is also called Social Anxiety Disorder. Social Phobia is a type of anxiety. It is one of the most common psychological disorders.

Social phobia is known as a disorder included in anxiety disorders in psychology. Since phobias are fears experienced in certain situations, social phobia can be defined as anxiety experienced in social situations. A social phobic person has the following scenario in mind: “These other people in social situations now find me weird, ridiculous, or embarrassing.” Therefore, this illogical scenario causes the social phobic individual to feel anxiety and even to have great fear of these situations. From this point of view, it is possible to recognize the following about social phobia; Social phobia is an unreasonable, persistent, unreasonable fear of the existence of others (like all other emotions).

An individual with social phobia experiences at an extremely high level the feeling of being disgraced, behaving in an embarrassing way or being negatively evaluated and humiliated in social situations, situations that require performance, or when an action has to be performed. Individuals fear situations that require them to interact with others or perform an action in the presence of others and try to avoid them as much as possible.
Here is a scenario that describes how people with social phobia feel when they encounter a social situation. Just close your eyes for a second and imagine walking into a room and seeing some of your friends and colleagues there, suddenly you look down and realize you’re not wearing any clothes. After such a scenario, you would probably say, “You would feel great embarrassment, you would want to run out of the room, you would feel like you were going to die, you would not want to see anyone again”.
People are afraid of situations that require them to interact with others or to perform an action in the presence of others and try to avoid them as much as possible. They think that others will make judgments about them as anxious, weak, demented, or stupid. They may be afraid of public speaking out of fear that they will notice their hands or voices shaking, or they may be extremely anxious when talking to others for fear of appearing unable to speak properly. They may avoid eating, drinking, or writing in front of others for fear that other people will be embarrassed to see their hands shake.

Although the subject of subtypes of social phobia is still unclear, it is generally divided into two common and uncommon subtypes. The common type of social phobia is the feeling of anxiety in every situation, while the uncommon type of social phobia is the person’s feeling of anxiety in certain situations (speech).
performing, performing, going on stage, asking questions…)


The concept of social fear dates back to 400 years BC. Hippocrates stated that for people who are shy, those who adopt darkness as their life and think that others are observing them. The concept of social phobia was first used in 1903 by psychiatrist Janet; It has been used for patients who have a fear of being observed by other people while writing, speaking and performing. Social phobia was first described by Marx and Gelder in 1966.
In DSM-II, all phobic disorders are gathered under the heading of phobic neuroses. In those years, social phobia had a very narrow definition. In 1980, social phobia was included as an original diagnosis in DSM-III. Studies conducted according to the diagnostic criteria in DSM-III have shown that the number of social environments in which anxiety and fear are experienced is high. In the DSM-III-R, the criterion for social anxiety to be seen in more than one place has been changed. In addition, the condition that social phobia cannot be attributed to “avoidant personality disorder” was removed. The term “generalized” was introduced because fear and anxiety appear in most social settings. The term generalized refers to most of the social environment, that is, to widespread social phobia. In DSM-IV, the diagnostic criteria have been clarified even more. The criterion of the individual’s fear of showing anxiety symptoms was added.
Social phobia is included as “social anxiety disorder” in DSM-V. Because social phobia causes more dysfunctional behaviors and problems than other phobias. In the DSM-V, changes were made to the social phobia criteria in previous DSM editions. There are still criticisms that these criteria do not fully define social anxiety disorder. In the 9th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-9) social phobia was addressed in the presence of the phobic syndrome, as in DSM-II. In 1990, the 10th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) included social phobia. The diagnostic criteria of social phobia in ICD-10 are similar to those in DSM-IV.

Social Phobia or Shyness-Shyness?

Social phobia can sometimes be confused with shyness. The distinction between shyness-shyness and social phobia is an important point in the diagnosis of social phobia. The individual may confuse whether the symptoms he sees in himself are shyness or social phobia, and this is quite natural. Situations such as public speaking, refraining from expressing oneself in some social situations can happen to many people. In such environments, shyness in matters such as expressing oneself is a common situation. Most of these may not be defined as mental disorders. For this reason, such situations are not considered as symptoms of social phobia, they are natural situations in the flow of life. In addition to such fears, avoidance behaviors and intense anxiety may indicate social phobia.
In addition, a social phobic individual knows very well that the fear of that situation is too much and unnecessary, and may feel that this is an abnormal situation. If the individual tries to endure this excessive and meaningless fear and anxiety and tries to overcome it, he may experience great difficulties. The symptoms seen in situations where there is a real need to be feared, that is, in which it is normal to be afraid, do not indicate that there is social phobia. For example, a student who has never studied the spoken word is afraid of being called in class. This fear is a very natural fear. The majority of such cases are not covered by the disease. In fact, before starting a job, “Will I be disgraced if I can’t do it?” Thoughts of thought can motivate a person and help him prepare better. In order to say social phobia, the person must have avoidance behaviors as well as fear. Or if the person does not run away, forces himself to endure this situation; Social phobia can only be mentioned if he or she is experiencing great distress.
Stress and tension are factors that increase success up to a certain level. This stress pushes the person to be more prepared, to work harder, to struggle to protect his image, human relations and job. However, as stress increases, its effectiveness in this direction decreases, and things that can be done more comfortably under normal conditions become impossible due to stress. In other words, the relationship between stress and success reverses after a while.

People with social phobia do not look at what is really going on, but focus on “their own feelings” brought about by the feared situation. This was assumed to be the main difference between social phobia and shyness. People who are shy are in social environments with symptoms similar to those seen in social phobics, they take into account the reactions of other people; For example, realizing that they are not boring and accepted leads to the end of their negative thoughts and anxiety. Social phobics, on the other hand, cannot make such an assessment. They do not tend to be informed about how others see them; because this situation is perceived as threatening as it will increase the risk of negative evaluation.

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