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Behavioral Features of social phobia

By definition, social phobics fear or avoid situations in which scrutiny by others is possible. The more common situations include parties, meeting members of the opposite sex, public speaking, lecture halls, using the telephone, and public transport.
In addition, there is a subgroup of social phobics who fear specific activities such as eating, drinking, or writing in public. More than 90% of social phobics fear more than one social situation demonstrating that it is seldom a monosymptomatic phobia. It is often assumed that social phobia is a relatively nondistressing problem, probably due to the continuum with social anxiety. However, this is not necessarily the case, and the consequences of social phobia can be extreme and varied. On average, social phobics rate at an intermediate level of severity when compared to other anxiety disorders. This average, however, is made up of individuals that range from those who only fear speaking in front of large crowds to those who are virtually housebound and are almost as distressed as the most severe agoraphobic. Some research has shown that on various measures, people with social phobia are actually more debilitated than people with panic disorder. Clinically, it is often found that social phobics are engaged in occupations that are considerably below the level of their qualifications and many people with social phobia have little social support, long-term partners, and financial independence. Further, social phobia, probably more than any other anxiety disorder, is often associated with excessive alcohol consumption. A more controversial issue is whether people with social phobia lack social skills. Empirical f indings relating to the social performance of social phobics has been mixed.
Some studies have shown clear differences between social phobics and nonclinical subjects on overall performance, but others have failed to show a difference. It may be that the nature of the situation is important in determining whether a difference in performance will be detected; some studies have shown differences between groups on some tasks but not others. It is most likely that people with social phobia do not actually have a deficit of skills but rather their social performance may be affected by both their degree of anxiety and the parameters of the situation.

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