Case Study

Himali was trembling as she struggled to sign the documents at the bank. She felt that the others were watching her, which made her sweat, tremble and dizzy. Her heart was pounding, and she was breathless. Unable to wait any longer, she dashed out of the bank after which she felt relieved.

Himali is a 21-year-old garment factory worker. She has felt the same way while travelling in the bus, and on some days, she even had to get down before her destination.  She hates having meals at the factory canteen when her co-workers are around.

What is social phobia?

Social phobia comes under the group of psychiatric illnesses called “anxiety disorders”.

People feel inappropriately anxious in situations where they could be watched while doing something. These situations often include canteens, restaurants, parties, meetings, banks and busses.

Some fear public speaking and writing in front of others.

Their fears centre around being critically evaluated by others, although they know the idea is groundless. They also worry excessively that they will do or say the wrong thing and something terrible will happen as a result.

Along with the fear, they experience symptoms such as blushing, trembling, stammering, dry mouth, racing heart, dizziness and difficulty in breathing.

Those with social phobia try to avoid such situations. If unavoidable, they endure the situation but can become highly anxious and distressed and may try to leave the situation as soon as they can. This can have a serious negative effect on their personal relationships, professional lives and ability to go about their daily routine.

Social phobia is NOT shyness

It is perfectly normal to feel shy or nervous in social situations where we might come under the attention of others. This is not social phobia.

Negative impact on life and the level of distress that is felt by a person with social phobia are much higher. This helps us to differentiate social phobia from shyness.

What causes social phobia?

Social phobia can run in the family. Temperament of the person also plays a role. For example, clingy behaviour, excessive timidity in children and excessively inhibited behaviour in adolescents indicate temperaments that put them at risk of developing social phobia. Learned behaviour can also contribute to the development of social phobia. For example, being publicly humiliated can lead one to feel excessively anxious at social situations.

Can social phobia be treated?

Social phobia is treatable. There are two main types of effective treatment, medications and psychological treatments. If you experience above symptoms, please seek help from a mental health professional.

In a nutshell,

You may be having social phobia if you feel very nervous when faced with social situations and if you avoid such situations leading to difficulty in going about your daily life. Social phobia is treatable. Please seek professional help.

Contact Sahanaya for more information and help.

Dr.Sumudu Rajapaksha
Consultant Psychiatrist

Mission : Fulfilling the mental health information needs of public through increased access to accurate information effectively and efficient delivered with established ethics.
Vision : The realization of optimum mental health of Sri Lankan community.

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