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Social anxiety disorder, sometimes called social phobia, is one of the most common anxiety disorders. Individuals dealing with this condition would generally feel quite nervous or uncomfortable in social situations. They would feel very concerned about the possibility of doing something embarrassing or humiliating, and might be preoccupied with the idea that others would think badly of them. This would cause a lot of self-consciousness and because of this, going to a party or even having a one-on-one conversation with a new person may result in uncomfortable physical symptoms such as; an increased heart rate, sweating and/or nausea, among other symptoms. If the anxiety continues to persist, it is unfortunately common for individuals to isolate themselves, which in turn makes recovery even more difficult.

How can you tell if you might benefit from receiving support about this issue?

If you can answer yes to most of the questions below, it is likely that you are affected by social phobia/social anxiety. However, it is important to keep in mind that only a qualified mental health professional would be able to give a diagnosis. Having some symptoms of social anxiety disorder which you might feel occasionally, is in actual fact very common, and would most probably not be enough to warrant a diagnosis since all of us might be able to relate to some of the below statements.

  • Do you worry a lot about embarrassing yourself in front of others?
  • Do you worry about what people might think of you?
  • Do you feel anxious in social situations?
  • Do you worry about behaving anxiously in any of the following situations?
  • Public speaking
  • Eating/drinking in front of other people
  • Writing in front of other people
  • Parties and other social gatherings
  • Do you avoid any of the above situations because they make you feel anxious?

If you believe that you might be going through this, it is very important to speak to a mental health professional in order to receive the right support. Receiving a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder should not be a cause of great alarm, but hopefully, it should help you understand yourself better and would help family, friends and professionals understand how to support you better. Similarly, to other mental health issues, social anxiety can be treated by a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

Claire Borg is a gestalt psychotherapist at Willingness. She works with adolescents and adults. She has a special interest in mental health. She can be contacted on claire@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.