COLUMN: Fear of social situations is overwhelming

Nedda Pourahmady

We’ve all been victims of frightful situations. Whether we were forced into talking about ourselves in a group discussion or reading a paper in front of an enormous audience, our nerves have gotten the best of each of us at one point or another.

I have been through some pretty nerve-wracking situations myself. However, as humiliated as I felt through those moments, I have come to realize there are people in our society who have a real fear of being social. And I’m not just talking about getting the jitters or breaking a little sweat, but rather being so socially distressed that their feelings can be categorized into an actual phobia.

According to, the Web site for the Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Association, social phobia is “the fear of social situations and the interaction with other people that can automatically bring on feelings of self-consciousness, judgment, evaluation and criticism.”

The above site further states these people feel anxious in many situations, such as most social encounters with strangers. Some other circumstances in which people with social phobia experience phobic symptoms include being introduced to others, teased or criticized, being the center of attention or being watched while doing something.

This society has a real problem with being critical of others. For example, I think many young kids and teens develop social phobias as a result of being teased and criticized throughout school by heartless classmates. And it doesn’t stop there. Even adults are criticized left and right, whether it’s by a co-worker, a boss or even a friend.

According to the Anxiety Disorders of America, people with social phobia tend to be quite sensitive toward criticism and rejection. Oftentimes, they have low self-esteem as well.

Therefore, I truly believe this society has a negative impact on people with social phobia. Everywhere you look, people are being critical and negative toward one another. It’s no wonder these feelings of low self-esteem and fears of rejection surface to the top of these people’s brains. Nevertheless, one can easily see how these feelings have the potential to take over someone’s life.

The SP/SAA addresses the symptoms associated with social phobia. Some of these symptoms include “intense fear, a racing heart, turning red or blushing, dry throat and mouth, trembling, swallowing with difficulty and muscle twitches.”

The National Mental Health Association explains how the extremity of a social phobia can vary. Social phobias can become so extreme that they impact a person’s lifestyle completely. The NMHA also states that people with social phobia “often avoid forming close relationships or they turn down chances to advance their careers. Some even become house-bound.”

The SP/SAA reports 15 million Americans a year are affected by social phobia. It is the third largest psychological problem in the United States today.

I think our society as a whole can make vast improvements to ease the sufferings of people with social phobia. By being less critical and judgmental of one another, maybe these people will feel a bit more comfortable in society. As a result, they will once again be able to enjoy the company of others.

Nedda Pourahmady is a junior newspaper journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].