Social phobia, also known as social anxiety disorder, is a major anxiety disorder. Social phobia is characterized by the fear of social scrutiny when you are in a crowd of people. Basically, you are nervous and afraid of being embarrassed in front of people. You may also have a fear of being embarrassed when having to perform in front of people, and this type of social phobia is called performance anxiety. If you have social phobia, you avoid social situations or performance situations at all cost. If you have to be exposed to social or performance situations, then they are endured with severe nervousness and anxiety.
Social phobia usually starts in adolescence, and also lasts a long time. There are usually several situations which cause anxiety, with performance anxiety being the most reported situation. And the reason why social phobia lasts such a long time is that people tend to avoid social situations altogether. When you avoid your fears, your anxiety never goes away…in fact, your anxiety worsens with avoidance. When you avoid, you never get to find out that your beliefs about the crowds of people are not true, and you don’t get a chance to find out that your anxiety eventually goes away on its own when you face your fears. You can see how one gets stuck in the negative cycle of social phobia by clicking here.
In addition, your negative self talk about the situation makes you nervous and anxious. It is not the situation that makes you anxious…it is your thoughts about the situation that make you anxious. If you are giving a presentation to your classmates, and are thinking “I’m not prepared” or “I’m going to make a fool of myself,” then you will feel nervous and anxious. However, if you think to yourself “I’ve practiced this many times” or “I did ok in previous presentations,” then you will feel calm.