Social phobias (naturally) revolve around social interactions and situations and since the mid 1990’s are more properly categorized as Social Anxiety Disorders (a.k.a. “SAD”). Social anxieties fully conform to the diagnostic norms for phobias and if anything, the classification of social phobias as “anxieties” reflects an acknowledgement of the pervasive nature of these issues in modern society.

It is thought, for instance, that as many as 75% of people fear speaking in public to some notable degree, often more so than a fear of snakes or even death.

A diagnosis of social anxiety disorder does not require a specific trigger, such as “public speaking” or “fear of sex”, as it can also be the generalized fear of social situations, one that has developed into a greater issue than simply “being shy”. SAD is also the general term that incorporates other social phobias, so a person with a specified social fear (like public speaking, etc.) is said to have a social anxiety disorder, one which can then be further specified.

Social phobias are very often more specifically diagnosed based on exact issues or triggers, and – as with phobias in general – a diagnosis requires that the issue has progressed well past a simple concern, etc. Once again, the phobia must be a long term issue, must interfere with someone’s life, etc.

Current industry diagnosis requirements and definitions (from the DSM-5) are numerous and include:

  1. A persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others. The individual fears that he or she will act in a way (or show anxiety symptoms) that will be embarrassing and humiliating.
  2. Exposure to the feared situation almost invariably provokes anxiety, which may take the form of a situationally bound or situationally pre-disposed Panic Attack.
  3. The person recognizes that this fear is unreasonable or excessive.
  4. The feared situations are avoided or else are endured with intense anxiety and distress.
  5. The avoidance, anxious anticipation, or distress in the feared social or performance situation(s) interferes significantly with the person’s normal routine, occupational (academic) functioning, or social activities or relationships, or there is marked distress about having the phobia.
  6. The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting 6 or more months.
  7. The fear or avoidance is not due to direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., drugs, medications) or a general medical condition not better accounted for by another mental disorder.

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