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Battling Social Phobia

Supongsangla Walling, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology


From a sociological point of view, the common man is an individual who lives in society, interacts with people, forms social groups and whose mode of life is so adapted that society derives a certain benefit from his lifestyle. As a member of the society, all of us know that man is a social animal. Being sociable is our natural instinct. All our human qualities such as to think, to inquire, to learn the language, to play and work only developed in human society. All this happens through interaction with others. One cannot be a normal being in isolation. Our nature compels us to live with our fellow beings. We can't afford to live alone.


What is Social Phobia?
Let me raise some questions. Are you extremely afraid of being judged by others? Are you extremely self-conscious in everyday social situations? Do you avoid meeting new people? Do you like to stay alone always?


It's perfectly normal to feel nervous in social situations where we might come under the attention of others, whether they're strangers or people we know. As humans, we are likely nervous and anxious, during an important event like attending a formal function, giving a speech or giving a presentation. However, for people with social phobia, performing in front of others and social situations can lead to intense anxiety. They may develop a fear of being judged, criticized, laughed at or humiliated in front of others, even in the most ordinary, everyday situations. For example, eating in public places like a restaurant can be daunting for some people with social phobia.


We all know the feeling of being nervous or uncomfortable in a social situation. Speaking in public or going into a room full of strangers isn't favorable for everybody, but most people can adjust to it. If you have a social phobia you might avoid all social contact because situations that other people consider "normal" like making small talk and eye contact will make you uncomfortable.


What do people with social phobia fear?
They have an intense fear of that people will judge them in social situations, feel embarrassed or humiliated and showing it by blushing, sweating, shaking and stuttering.


Here are some of the samples drawn from those with social phobia (identity withheld)
“I will not speak to someone unless I feel I have to. So in school, I would only speak to teachers if needed. I wouldn’t talk to other students even if they try to talk to me. I just ignore them without really thinking about it. Being silent and alone is the best way to avoid anxiety but I don’t think I’m really too anxious. I just feel difficult to utter the words or to talk with them.”


"Ever since from childhood, I do not want to socialize with people. I started protecting myself with the silence and I prefered it that way. People would ask me why I don't speak. If I do that a lot of times, I get used to it and avoid myself from people.”


"I feel scared and start trembling when I have to speak or read in front of a group of people.”


"I felt extremely isolated from my friends and family. Slowly, I became emotionally unstable and I started hating myself because I couldn't explain to them what I was feeling and what I wanted from them. I had no idea what was wrong with me."


“I don’t want to hang out with others at college because I am afraid I will do something embarrassing. My mind is not at rest when teachers allow me to do something. Therefore I have avoided giving speeches, joining any college activities or committees. I can't make eye contact with people and tend to mumble, stutter and speak quietly when I am around other people I don’t know.”


Having said these, my point of view here is, in the present context we must view those persons who have the inability to communicate or socialize as a human being, and not less or more than that because many a times people may not like to socialize out of purely personal reasons.


We must know that Social Phobia can be treated. If you know anyone who is suffering from this or showing symptoms, you must take immediate measures by taking her/ him to a therapist if the condition is bad. But if the condition is better we can give remedial measures anywhere. One form of therapy shown to be effective at treating is to counsel them that involve changing the way one think, feel and behave in social situations.


Exposure to both social situations that a person tends to avoid and dislike as a result of one's anxiety may also be helpful in reducing social anxiety. When one is frequently exposed to an intimidating situation or unpleasant sensation with no negative results, the anxiety regarding that situation or feeling will often diminish.


Do not give your way into this phobia and let it not chain your life forever. If you are suffering from this phobia, choose to hang out around people or surround yourself with people. Remember, there is absolutely nothing wrong being with other people. What you can try to do is first find one or two people whom you are friendly with. A good friend of mine shared a quote to me and it says, "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."


So if you have this phobia take a chill pill, break out of your shell, interact and share, meet new people, make new friends, be positive always and bury the phobia forever.


Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thoughtwill delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Tatongkala Pongen, Aniruddha, Meren and Kvulo Lorin. For feedback or comments please email: