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Fear of People – Social Phobias

Updated December 27, 2021
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Fear of People – Social Phobias essay

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Learn here why there are actually people who are afraid of people. Those affected usually consciously withdraw from social life because being together with others makes them insecure. If they suffer from persistent agitation in such contexts, psychologists speak of a social phobia, which belongs to the category of mental disorders. Just as diverse as the manifestations of the fear of people are also the triggering causes or possible therapeutic approaches.

Social phobia: What is it?

The fear of humans can be determined by means of clearly defined diagnostic methods. Social phobias belong to the group of anxiety disorders (phobic disorders).

The following symptoms or characteristics are typical of people who are afraid of people:

  • Fear of being in the public eye (lectures, introductory rounds, etc.)
  • Fear of human beings is based on unfounded criticism of others, being rejected or adversely rated
  • To feed fear in the presence of others (snack, cafeteria, restaurants)
  • Fear of using public toilets
  • Fear of encounters with known persons in public
  • Fear of conferences, professional or private meetings
  • As soon as people should be in the described situations, they notice sweat
  • A dry mouth
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Palpitations or even tachycardia weakness
  • Constricting feeling in the abdominal or chest area
  • Nausea
  • Afraid to lose control
  • Afraid to go nowhere
  • Fear of a fainting fit

In acute social phobia, sufferers blush or begin to shake extremely hard. Occasionally, they also lose control of their stool and / or urinary urgency.

Causes of Fear of People

To date, interdisciplinary research results do not yet provide a consistent explanation for why individuals can develop extreme fear of humans. Similar to other mental disorders, however, it is best to first look for the causes of social phobias in early childhood. This is how early childhood experiences often manifest themselves during the course of life. Study results show that people can develop a fear of other people, especially if they were forced by a certain educational style. If childhood was characterized primarily by a humiliating, negative or dictatorial style, the likelihood of developing social phobias later is very high. By the way, this also applies

Moreover, reports of violent research show that social phobias are often the result of hitherto undiscovered cases of domestic or sexual violence. Other, very formative traumatic events, such as the early loss of a parent’s share or the experience of a natural disaster, can trigger in retrospect fear of other people.

Currently there are more exciting research projects underway. For example, it focuses on possible connections between genetic, psychological, biological and psychosocial causes in relation to a later social phobia. For example, researchers are investigating possible associations between acute physiological excitability and a timid character.

Research in the field of learning psychology also focuses on the causes of fear of other people. Thus, psychologists assume that originally neutral settings (environment, situation, group of people) change as a result of the fact that those affected once feel fear and as a result take a more avoiding attitude towards them.

Beginning and Appearance of a Fear of People

Despite the somewhat uncertain study situation, it can be assumed that they often develop social phobias during childhood or puberty. At the same time, scientists and experts emphasize that ultimately a certain degree of fear of humans also belongs to normal human behavior. The fearful behavior only becomes alarming when those affected develop unusually violent anxiety feelings, which become the avoidance behavior described here in very specific situations. At this transition, the onset of social phobia is timed. It can be assumed that around two to ten percent of all people in Europe suffer from the fear of third parties.

However, the data vary greatly, as social phobias show different manifestations. In addition, there is the danger that the anxiety disorder in extremely shy people is often not even diagnosed. Accordingly, an existing dark figure regarding social phobias can be expected. Most commonly, social phobias are found in family or professional contexts. Typically, a first suspicion usually arises exactly when affected persons are supposed to speak in front of an audience or are regularly missed with corresponding social highlights.

Diagnosis of Social Phobias

According to the ICD-10 classifications, social phobias are provided with the key F40.1. The anxiety disorder is recognizable by the following characteristics:

  1. The fear of people occurs especially when it comes to smaller collections of people. In contrast to big events there is the danger to get into the scrutiny of others.
  2. The anxious behavior appears especially in very specific situations or outweighs exactly this.
  3. People who are afraid of people are in charge of all sorts of phobic situations.
  4. Often a social phobia begins during adolescence.

If at least one of these criteria applies to the diagnosis of anxiety disorder, the specialist also focuses on the symptoms listed above and the typical behavioral patterns of those affected.

Concomitant Diseases of Social Phobias

It can be assumed that the fear of people at any given time occurs again and again in combination with other anxiety disorders. Experts speak of comorbidity. For example, social phobia may be related to mutism, a communication disorder. Also, people who are afraid of other people often suffer from depression. It can be assumed that approximately one third of all those affected are suffering from alcohol abuse. Last but not least, the fear of people can also occur in combination with ADHD.

Treating Fear of People

Similar to other anxiety disorders, there are two different ways to treat social phobias. On the one hand there are psychotherapeutic therapeutic approaches, while in other cases again more drug treatments are eligible.

If psychotherapists treat the fear of people, cognitive behavioral therapy is often used. Using behavioral experiments, sufferers learn to rate their own negative ratings in different situations. It makes sense to combine this therapeutic approach with the acquisition of various relaxation techniques, such as mediation or autogenic training. In individual cases, it is also useful to combine psychotherapeutic treatments with special medicines. Last but not least, it is advisable to take part in special training courses in order to expand social skills or to completely relearn them in view of the situation.

Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) play an important role in treating people with drug-related anxiety. Also, some antidepressants are approved in Austria for the treatment of social phobias. In particularly acute cases, the fear of humans can be treated with drugs from the group of benzodiazepines.

Fear of People – Social Phobias essay

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