Social Anxiety is characterized by a marked fear or anxiety of social situations where the person is exposed to possible judgement, scrutiny or evaluation by others. Social anxiety can come in many forms such as:
- Social Interactions: Conversations with new people, meeting unfamiliar people, attending social gatherings or parties.
- Being Observed: Eating, drinking, public speaking, talking in front of a class of fellow students.
- Performing in Front of Crowds: Giving a speech or lectures, acting, dancing, as well as musical or athletic performances.
People with Social Anxiety fear that they will be negatively criticized, judged or evaluated as anxious, weak, crazy, stupid, boring, intimidating, dirty, unlikable, etc. This can be an extremely debilitating problem because the person’s fears of being criticized or judged may grow so great that they avoid or completely stop participating in important social activities and thus become more and more socially isolated. This can lead to depression and possibly drug and alcohol use to cope with the anxiety. Social Anxiety may also cause significant problems at work or school given that the person will avoid important presentations and other tasks that require social interaction such as entertaining clients, arguing cases in court, and being interviewed.
Approximately 7% of North Americans suffer from Social Anxiety. Psychological treatments for this difficulty are highly effective and clients show significant and lasting improvements. Some of the best approaches for treating Social Anxiety include Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Therapy.
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