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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is social phobias or social anxiety?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • beyondblue is a national, independent, not-for-profit organisation working to address issues associated with depression, anxiety and related disorders in Australia.beyondblue is a bipartisan initiative of … View Profile

     When a person has a phobia, they feel very fearful about particular objects or situations. Social phobia is a common phobia which is fear of social situations such as parties and meetings. There are other types of phobias, these include:

    • agoraphobia - fear of open spaces such as parks and big shopping centres
    • claustrophobia - fear of small spaces such as lifts, aeroplanes and crowded rooms
    • zoophobia - fear of animals
    • acrophobia - fear of heights
    • mysophobia - fear of dirt and germs in places such as toilets and kitchens.
    People often have more than one phobia. Approximately 9 per cent of people in Australia experience a phobia at some time in their lives. Phobias are twice as common in women as in men and can start at any age.

  • Dr Louise Shepherd

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    I am a clinical psychologist with 15 years experience working with all sorts of goals and issues. I love working with people, helping them to … View Profile

    Social anxiety is the term to describe fear of what people think of you. The word “social” is a bit misleading as it can relate to any sort of interpersonal situation in which you worry about being judged badly by others. It is anxiety about saying or doing something that will result in others thinking badly of you. The important thing here is our thoughts. Our mind can tell us all sorts of stuff that is really unhelpful, our own personal critic with us 24/7!! The kinds of situations that some people find very stressful might be meeting new people, talking in a group, answering the phone, attending social events like BBQs or dinners, or perhaps sitting on buses and trains. The key factor is the concern about what people think. 

    Social anxiety is something we all experience at some stage. Some of us are more extroverted and like being around people more than others but most of us have our limits. For instance I don't like turning up to a party on my own or giving a presentation in front of other psychologists and i get anxious in such situations. So whilst this sort of anxiety might be common it is unlikely to be a big problem for many.

    The word phobia implies that it is a problem - and often health professionals use the word “disorder” to mean that someting has got out of hand. So if worrying about what people think of you is taking up a lot of your time and energy and / or is stopping you from getting out and about and enjoying a social life or particpating in important work events and so on then it would probably be worth getting some assistance. 

    Hope this helps!

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