Social Phobia

Social phobia is when a client experiences significant fear or anxiety related to social situations where one could be exposed to the judgments of others. Clients often call this “social anxiety.” Social triggers include dating, meeting new people, being assertive in almost any way, talking on the phone, having conversations, expressing opinions or beliefs, being watched, eating and drinking in front of others, and performing in front of others. Those suffering from social phobia fear embarrassing themselves or offending others and typically avoid social triggers. Passive behaviors are also typical of those with social phobia. Over time, social phobia can lead to isolation because avoidance becomes persistent and interferes with social, personal, and professional functioning.

We’ve noticed that clients with social phobia are mostly perceived by others in one of two ways. The obvious is perceiving the person with social phobia as being meek and anxious. It is obvious that they are worried about offending others, and their body language demonstrates this. The other way that clients with social phobia are often perceived is arrogance. This is very interesting. Some people with social phobia develop a serious poker face, seem as if they have a cold exterior, and, because they rarely provide opinions or speak about themselves, they seem disinterested in the person trying to connect with them. Some people will believe that the person with social phobia thinks that he or she is above everyone else. This perception could not be more wrong!

Dating is a real struggle for most people with social phobia. Of course, current times are not making younger generations develop great dating skills in general. Texting is part of the initial dating process. The online dating scene and texting prevent the younger generations from developing the ‘thicker skin’ needed for rejections. These clients will try to avoid rejection at all costs. We see so many clients in their 20s and early 30s who really struggle to talk to someone they might find attractive or want to pursue. The opposite is also true. Someone with social phobia could be in a relationship they no longer want but can’t break up with their partner because they fear their reactions or responses. Sometimes, instead of a client telling a prospective partner they are no longer interested in pursuing them romantically, they will just ‘ghost’ them. The “ghosting culture” lacks bravery and empowerment.

Professional goals can be hindered by social phobia. Because these clients lack assertiveness, they will struggle to ask for raises and promotions, or sometimes even try to look for a new job because they fear the current boss’s reactions if they quit! They might also avoid looking for a new job because they want to avoid a potential interview.

Overall, social phobia can cause clients to settle personally, romantically, socially, and professionally. If you are struggling with this, get help! Treatment does not take long.

ERP is used to treat social phobia. Assertiveness training is included in the exposure treatment. Clients will track how often they apologize or mention disclaimers. An example of a disclaimer is when someone approaches their boss and says, “I don’t mean to bother you but,…”. Disclaimers are like a preemptive apology. Remaining passive can result in a client ignoring their own rights and losing themselves to the whims of others.

Social phobia exposures can end up being fun for the client. There are definitely exposures the client will find humorous, especially as they get better. We can’t tell you how many hilarious dating stories we have heard! It is so gratifying as a provider to see clients start to take social risks.

To learn more about exposure response prevention treatment (ERP), please click here.

We Are Ready To Help

Treatment is available in person, via video conference, and over the phone for patients in Florida and New York. In-person sessions are available in Tampa, Florida. 

Skip to content