Overcoming Social Phobia

We are all a little shy sometimes and nervous if we have to speak in public, but most of us are able to overcome those insecurities. Millions of Americans never do. They suffer from social phobia, a crippling but treatable psychiatric disorder.

As a child, Katharine Wismer remembers being shy and afraid and by the age of 20, almost too panicked to leave her house. “I was afraid to go across the street to get the mail. I was that phobic, that afraid,” she says.

Years later, Katharine’s illness was diagnosed as a psychiatric disorder called social phobia. It affects an estimated 10 million Americans.

Psychiatrist says, “What happens to these individuals is they become quite disabled and impaired.”

Dr. says social phobia differs from clincial depression. “These individuals often times feel that they are the object of other people’s scrutiny, that they are being harshly judged, looked at and evaluated,” he says.

The condition tends to run in families and usually begins in junior high school. Dr. says anti-depressant drugs and behavioral therapy to learn social and assertive skills help many people who suffer from social phobia.

Katharine records her thoughts to help re-direct her thinking and reduce her fears.

Dr. says, “What happens in life is that we think that the thoughts are our reality when they’re not. They’re very separate.”

After struggling for 20 years, Katharine says even if she is being judged, she doesn’t care.

It’s estimated that fewer than five percent of people who suffer from social phobia get any type of treatment for the disorder.

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