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Depression & Stress
Overcoming Social Phobia

When a study was done to find out what people feared the most, public speaking ranked number one, even higher than death. It not only is feared the most, but is one of the most prevalent and common fears that people experience. Until recently, it was dismissed as a minor problem and was considered normal that people would get nervous speaking in front of others. But recent research shows that people who do experience this problem and find it debilitating and controlling their life have a valid problem, and help is available for them to deal with it.

Symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, shaking, dizziness, blushing, shortness of breath, choking, one's mind going blank, etc., are typical responses in these social situations. For example, people may avoid meetings for fear of having to speak up, or not seek promotions because they know that running meetings is part of that job. They may even start avoiding the lunch room or parties for fear that other people may be evaluating them.

The cause of this fear may be specific for each individual, but several main themes seem to run common for people. The two most common ones are the need for other people's approval, that how well they perform in front of a group of people (whether it be at a party or a meeting), is dependent on what people think of them, imagined or real; and second, that there is a strong desire for people with this fear to be perfect, and they are constantly self-critical if they fall short of perfection. This, of course, creates anxiety because a person will not always have the approval of others; there will always be people who don't like us. Also, we can never be perfect, so we are setting ourselves up for failure if we expect this of ourselves.

This fear of the scrutiny of others is called social phobia and can affect anyone, no matter what your personal history has been, and seems to be common to both men and women. Onset could be since childhood, where a child was hesitant to join in with groups of people, or it might have started in junior high or high school and be associated with performance in front of one's peers. Still others may develop social phobia in adulthood, when a person's job required them to give talks or be involved in a scrutinizing situation by the public.

If you find yourself worrying too much about what others think of you, and fear embarrassment or humiliation in front of others to the extent that you avoid situations where you are the center of attention, you may have social phobia. Treatment involves individual and/or group therapy by a trained counselor who understands the problem. By beginning to look at one's unrealistic expectations of oneself, receiving realistic feedback from others, and learning new tools to handle future social situations, one can start to experience success and gain more confidence in trying new situations.

Where to Call Next for Help
Dr. Kathy Marshack can help you. She is accepting new clients and has two office locations for your convenience. If you live in the Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington area (or can drive to these locations) please call to set up your first appointment. See Therapy FAQs for more information. Please give us a call at (360) 256-0448 or (503) 222-6678 or email us at info@kmarshack.com.