Social Phobia

Social phobia is often triggered during adolescence. WHO estimates that up to 7% of a population experiences Social phobia and both girls and boys may suffer. Often a specific situation triggers the start of a vicious circle. Like in other anxiety disorders, one has a highly reactive nervous system that easily makes one sweat or blush, or may e.g. provoke slightly trembling hands. The autonomous nervous system regulates, among other things, the dilatation of blood vessels and the activity of sweat glands.

Social phobia can typically start during class in school when one has to perform e.g. answer a question or write on the blackboard. Actually, one might not be more ‘nervous’ of performing than other people – it is just that it shows more easily in some of us. Because of the visible symptoms of the over-reactive body in performance situations, other children may start teasing and laughing.

Such situations will make everybody want to stop the body from showing nervous-ness, but it is a vicious circle. Performance anxiety will become much higher with the new impossible task of both wanting to control the body-signs, and at the same time engage actively in performing! In adults the same vicious circle makes people suffer at the job, but adults rarely laugh at, or tease other adults, who shows signs of nervousness.

The level of anxiety in Social phobia is often less intense than in Panic disorder. However, since one cannot avoid performing together with other people, if one has to study or work, the result is that avoidance is not a possible strategy like in Panic Disorder, in Social Phobia one suffers more or less constantly!

Fear is elicited in situations with others

  • eating or drinking in public places (trembling)
  • writing while others look (trembling)
  • staying in heated rooms (sweating)
  • shaking hands (sweating)
  • manage in awkward situations (blushing, trembling)
  • talking to authorities (more performance-anxiety)
  • using public toilets (others may look/listen)

Specific and generalized Social phobia
In specific Social phobia only a few situations trigger anxiety. In generalized Social phobia one experiences fear in most social settings, except with close family and friends.

If one has been extremely shy and a loner since early childhood, there may also be symptoms of autism spectrum disorder which has to be treated separately.

Social phobia tends to become chronic. Some choose to go to surgeons who per-form operations against blushing or sweating by cutting the nerve-fibers of a specific area. But often side-effects can make people sweat even more in other areas of the body!

Some have received a type of medication from their doctor which can block palpita-tions. When the body reacts less, the load of performance anxiety lessens. Others may have developed a habit of using alcohol or other drugs.

The best long-term solution may be to reconsider, whether it could be possible to live with this tendency to blush, sweat or tremble and learn to face other people without fear? Will others really reject you because of this? If people are asked: “What do you think about a person who makes a speech and has a trembling voice, or is blushed or otherwise looks like he/she is nervous?”. Most people answer: “I hope he/she makes it, I feel empathy”.

Many performers sweat when they are on stage and use a handkerchief or towels and handle the problem openly, without shame or self-defeating thoughts.

People who buy tickets do so, because they like their performances and do not care about the sweating.

As long as the performer is at ease with him- or her-self, then the audience will feel comfortable as well.


The goal in cognitive behavioral therapy
– is to help people realize this and help them accept. As soon as one stops wanting to control the body, the performance anxiety diminishes and the vicious circle can be broken.

PanicRelief shows you techniques, which can help you cope with the feeling of per-formance anxiety. Even though one rarely experiences full blown panic attacks in Social phobia, the same principles can be used.