November 11

Social Phobia

Mental Health, Phobia

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What is;
Social Phobia is more than just shyness. It is basically a fear. We call it a “phobia” because it prevents us from doing things we would enjoy or do easily (go to a coffee shop or a party). Many of us become anxious before meeting new people, but find that once we meet them, we can handle and even enjoy these situations. Unlike people suffering from social phobia, who get upset at the thought that everyone is looking at them and observing what they are doing. They are reluctant to eat or drink in public and avoid going to shops or restaurants as much as possible.In short, a person with social phobia experiences:-Fear of one or more social situations where the person is exposed to strangers or ‘examined’ in detail by others (eg a party, a presentation or a job interview).  -The person thinks they will become lazy and feel embarrassed.-Recognizes that fear is irrational and excessive.-He avoids as many social situations as he can. 

What causes it?
-Some biological theories argue that we are prepared to fear wild animals or dangerous situations because of our ancestors when man lived in caves, etc. -The learning theory, on the other hand, says that one acquires a fear of a stimulus because he associated it with a negative/traumatic outcome. So if someone had gone out with their friends and been made fun of and the experience was negative, then they associate that experience with that negative feeling.-Finally, research shows that parents with social phobia increase 3 times the probability that their child will also acquire this specific phobia.

What is it like to have Social Phobia?
Someone who experiences this is overly concerned about how they look to others, and thinks about the worst case scenario: being ridiculed and going over in great detail all the embarrassing things that could happen to them. His anxiety grows and gets worse when he is in a difficult situation, and he now worries so much that he appears anxious and finds it difficult to speak or say what he wants to say. Excessive concentration on the person (eg Boring person image) leads to physical (eg sweat) and cognitive (eg ‘I’m going to be lazy’) symptoms. Result: They feel worse and upset about how they handled the situation, their self-confidence drops and their anxiety about social gatherings increases. Many they are forced to change their lifestyle and are deprived of many things that they might otherwise enjoy. They cannot visit their children’s school, go shopping or to the dentist. They may even avoid accepting a promotion at work even though they may be highly qualified for a more demanding and lucrative job. 

Is there any help?
And of course! There are several ways to deal with social phobia. Specifically, Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapy argues that some people are stressed because of the way they think about things, so if we change our interpretations, then it will affect how we feel. For example, one had a presentation that didn’t go well at work. The first thing he will think is that this happened because of him, that it was his fault, he will start to analyze everything from his appearance, to his words, and his gestures, and he will start to feel anxious. The therapist will search with the patient for alternative interpretations of this situation, and find together more realistic views to think about and re-evaluate the situation – (how do you know you were boring? were the others in the group boring too? how did you judge that did you just become a rezili?)Then the patient, with the help of his therapist, is gradually exposed to situations that make him difficult and stressful, in order to apply the techniques he has learned through their meetings such as simple social skills (e.g. how to start a conversation with a unknown), relaxation exercises to make him feel less stressed in general, and how to be more assertive (eg speaking his mind and not worrying about how it sounds, not being afraid to say “sorry I can’t” etc.) . The end result is that with their gradual exposure to a situation that causes the phobia, these individuals begin to gain confidence that they will be able to handle rejection and criticism. They are encouraged to face their worst fears and encouraged to develop creative ways to deal with them. 

At Counselling Kenya, our team of dedicated mental health specialists use tried and tested methods that address the root cause of mental health issues. To make an appointment with one of our licensed therapists, call 0741123944.

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