Fear of Socializing: Origin, Characteristics, Causes, Treatments

The fear of socializing, also called social anxiety disorder , is a generalized anxiety disorder characterized by fear of the other person’s gaze. As this form of phobia can be particularly disabling in professional and family life, it is recommended to combat it as soon as possible.

When you suffer from fear, it is very normal that the simplest activities that are done daily such as talking with a neighbor, going to a job interview are activated. In these everyday situations, we can all feel discomfort, even inner tension. This anxiety, which can be equated with stage fright or shyness, is not pathological. But when apprehension turns into fear of panic, and we are completely tetanized in our relationships with others, it is social phobia . Anxious disease that affects between 4 and 5% of the population.

The origins of social phobia

As with most mental disorders , social phobia is not the result of a single cause, but the result of a combination of factors, which in most cases are related to attitude, towards certain experiences, whether they are good or bad lived.

“There is no specific temperament that clearly predisposes to social phobia. It is important to say that many patients have a tendency to very high sensitivity. Also, common traits, such as inhibition or perfectionism, can be found in those affected. They are generally very demanding of themselves and, having difficulty enduring failure in their relationships with others, often fall into depreciation (“I suck”, “I will never make it” …). His sense of self-criticism is staunch, “explains Laurie Hawkes.

For these more vulnerable personalities, it is when an educational attitude that is not encouraging and / or a traumatic event is added that the risk of falling into social phobia becomes very high. Ideally, for them to evolve serenely, they would be, from childhood, parents who understand them and do not ridicule them, says Laurie Hawkes. They must be pushed without excess. If they are too preserved or overprotected, they convince themselves that they are too fragile to face the world.

You need to encourage their social experiences to strengthen their self-confidence. The example set by the parents, and the information that comes from it, are all small factors that can promote the development of social phobia. This is particularly true of families who live in isolation, who never invite anyone, who never send their children to summer camps.

Like a traumatic experience in childhood or adolescence. For sociophobes, this is not necessarily a major event, ”adds Laurie Hawkes. It can be a mockery in class, a fall in public, a situation of injustice … «In all cases, an episode of humiliation, the memory of which has conditioned the body, meaning that the situation is dangerous and must be avoided. This explanation is found in 20% of the cases of phobia ”, says Antoine Pelissolo.

You may also be interested in reading: Fear of long words


  • Social phobia corresponds to an excessive and irrational fear in the eyes of others: people who suffer from it are extremely anxious to make a fool of themselves in public, they fear being misjudged by their colleagues, their relatives.
  • They try to avoid all situations that, in their eyes, present a risk of humiliation: in particular, they have great difficulties speaking in public, even defending an opinion or a project that reaches their heart.
  • In the long term and in the absence of treatment, social phobia can delay professional development, but also lead to isolation, low self-esteem and depression.

Symptoms of social phobia

  • Faced with an anxiety situation, the person with social phobia is taken with panic and uncontrollable fear, which may be accompanied by characteristic symptoms of an anxiety attack, such as dizziness, palpitations, sweating, tremors and hyperventilation.
  • Stuttering and blushing are other possible manifestations of social phobia, as is the feeling of being tetanized.
  • On rare occasions, a loss of consciousness may also be observed.

You can also present:

  • Sweaty hands
  • The experience of the immense desire to flee.
  • Acceleration pulse.
  • Make words that intersect.
  • How dark is your mind.


Social phobia can be the result of a combination of several factors:

  • Hormonal disorders (abnormal levels of cortisol, called ‘ stress hormone ‘).
  • Dysfunction of certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine.
  • Paternal overprotection during the subject’s childhood.
  • Traumatic event in the past
  • Genetic factors are also suspected, since the risk of suffering from social phobia seems higher when a close relative already suffers from it.

Treatment of fear of socializing

  • It is recommended to follow therapy to overcome social phobia as soon as possible: behavioral and cognitive therapy (CBT), for example, can work very well.
  • In groups or in individual sessions, it allows you to gradually face anxiety situations to learn to control your fear.
  • Good to Know: Virtual reality is being used more and more in this form of therapy.
  • psychoanalysis can also pay off: it allows you to delve into your past to find the exact origin of the social phobia.
  • Medications, such as anxiolytics or antidepressants, can also be used in parallel, but this is not systematic.

Shyness and confidence are essential

Generally, people who suffer from this phobia are those who are very reserved, shy, so therapists recommend attending therapies that promote safety in individuals, for this, and their relationship with the rest of the world is necessary:

  • Establish and recognize those situations that cause your shyness, ranging from a simple conversation to expressing some feelings towards the opposite sex.
  • Analyze the situation and try to make a list to help you overcome this situation.
  • Make a plan to solve each problem and, if necessary, seek help from a psychologist.
  • Implement the plan, starting with the simplest conflict.
  • To take the beating you can gradually build up their confidence.
  • Avoid actions that produce fear and get rid of fear.

Overcome social phobia

  • “Social phobia often has a very self-accusatory internal speech.
  • You are looking for the slightest mistake.
  • In social situations, he is torn between his fear and his self-criticism. So he never takes advantage of it.
  • Under these circumstances, no one experience can benefit her and serve as a stimulus for the next one, ”says Laurie Hawkes.
  • So the first step to healing is acceptance.
  • Furthermore, he adds, the trap that is often set for them is that of rationalization, which consists in saying: “It’s not worse this way, I’m fine alone, the others aren’t worth it.”
  • Learn to love yourself, to see your qualities, to look at yourself with kindness to accept exposure to those of the other.

In a second stage , the technique of exposure to feared situations is necessary. Like other anxiety disorders, “explains Pelissolo,” cognitive and behavioral therapies (CBT) are the most interesting. And to carry out the exercises, group therapies are the most appropriate ».

  • First, submit to the eyes of other patients, then repeat real-life situations, an approach that should be gradual, but yields excellent results.
  • What if the phobia is really too strong?
  • The psychiatrist defends the cause of drug treatment.
  • As with depression or agoraphobia , the effects of antidepressants are not immediate and require at least 4 to 6 weeks to become well established.
  • They manifest themselves in a decrease in apprehension, a reduction in anxiety symptoms in social situations and, therefore, a progressive improvement in the quality of life.

Website | + posts

Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.