Public Awareness Of Social Anxiety Is Increasing

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

At some point in the 90s, public awareness about social anxiety began to increase rapidly, or so it seems. Many more people self-diagnose these days, "I have social anxiety disorder."

On occasions I have asked myself such questions as follow:

"Is there a sudden outbreak of social anxiety disorder?"

"Has social anxiety become a trendy diagnosis, the 'social disease' of 21st century?"

"Is the trend shaped by the media?"

"Is the popularity of social anxiety disorder fueled by drug companies which target their ads directly to the potential consumers?"

The good old term, "shyness" is out and "social anxiety" in! In the past, people tended to be too shy to talk about their shyness. Now, we are a little more open to talk about it because it is a disorder.

It's normal to experience those "butterflies" while performing or speaking in a front of a group, attending a job interview or going to party where you don't know anyone.

It's also normal to experience such anxiety symptoms as tremors, dry mouth, blushing, "lump" in throat, sweating, heart racing, abdominal discomfort and the like.

If your social anxiety is within the in the normal range, you may experience the above discomforting symptoms but you would stay on track and move forward anyway. You would still go ahead with your social activity because of the rewards that are likely to follow upon doing it or the penalties you might face by avoiding it.

But, when you start frequently avoiding social activities, even at the expense of your career and education, you have crossed the line from normal social anxiety into the territory of social anxiety disorder.

Furthermore, when social anxiety becomes so severe that it significantly disrupts or cripples your everyday participation in public situations such as going to the local store, bank, post office or eating out in a restaurant, you have crossed the line from social anxiety to social phobia.

Here are other everyday situations in which one can experience severe or even disabling anxiety:
Using a public restroom.
Returning items to a store
Interacting with people of the opposite sex
Writing in front of others
Entering a room in which people are already seated

When social anxiety is within the normal range, even though you might experience significant discomfort before and during performance of a social activity, an exhilarating feeling is likely to result from such an accomplishment.

But a person who suffers from social phobia is not likely to experience any such exhilarating feeling. They might simply experience a sense of relief when the excruciatingly painful situation is over.

According to the Mayo Clinic, four percent of the adult U.S. population, that is, about five million Americans, suffer from social phobia. The number of people suffering from social anxiety or even social anxiety disorder is much larger.

If you have begun to limit your social activities because of the fear of embarrassment or of other people noticing you blushing, sweating or trembling, don't let that fear rule you. Go ahead and do it anyway!

Make a point of reminding yourself that you are not the problem and other people are not the problem. The problem is with the thoughts that make you anxious and stop you from getting out and taking the risk!

Return to Anxiety/Fear Reduction Tips
Return to Self Help 

Copyright 2005, Mind Publications 
Posted August 2005


Click for Dr. Sharma's credentials
Dr. Vijai Sharma
Your Life Coach
By Telephone

Feedback- Let us know how we are doing

Terms and Conditions

Web site designed and maintained by Chanda Taylor