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Sanford North Mandan Clinic

What is the difference between social phobia and general shyness?

Social phobia is diagnosable mental health condition. There's a difference between social phobia and situational worry that may cause some of us to avoid certain situations we find uncomfortable. For instance, someone who normally has good social skills and enjoys interacting with people but becomes nervous about speaking in front of a large group wouldn't necessarily have social phobia.

At the same time, as we do activities that make us uncomfortable, we normally become more comfortable. If you have social phobia, which also is diagnosed as social anxiety disorder, uncomfortable situations are so frightening that you find yourself unable to function.

Many people who are shy become more outgoing as they become more confident in themselves. But social phobia is a medical disorder that needs to be treated. It won't go away on its own>

Diagnosis and treatment

The strength of your reactions to your social fears is the biggest indicator. Do you worry excessively about being judged or embarrassed in front of others? Do you think everyone else is confident and you are the only one with irrational fears? Do you go to great lengths to avoid going to social events or become so nervous before a social event that you feel or become physically ill? Has your aversion to social events continued to increase, perhaps even extended to the point where you have difficulty going to school, work or other places that have been a routine part of your life?

Degree of social phobia vary greatly. Some people may only experience it in certain situations such as talking to someone they revere or admire. While others may have social anxiety in every situation that involves interaction with other people. You can help yourself get better by making an appointment with your primary care doctor.

Depending on the degree of your social phobia, you may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps you learn how to reduce anxiety and improve social skills. Your doctor may also prescribe medications or use a combination of therapies and medications.

Dr. Kinsey Shultz Piatz is a family medicine doctor at Sanford North Mandan Clinic. She is a graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and completed her residency at Siouxland Medical Education Foundation in Sioux City, Iowa. To make an appointment with Dr. Shultz Piatz, visit or call (701) 667-5100.

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