Social Phobia, more recently described as Social Anxiety, involves exposure to social situations or situations involving some form of ‘performing’ which provokes an immediate anxiety response that may include palpitations, tremors, sweating, gastrointestinal discomfort, diarrhea, muscle tension, blushing or confusion, and which often involves panic attack.
Children and adolescents, like many adults, with social phobias report feeling terrified of being criticized or judged harshly by others. School phobias are often a common expression of social anxiety in children and youth. Many individuals with social phobia are unable to, or have difficulty, speaking in public, making presentations, eating in public, and initiating conversations (Rachman, 2004).
In addition to the significant and persistent fear of ‘performing’ and acting in a way that will be embarrassing, someone with Social Phobia recognizes that there response is excessive. The person experiences an anxious response or a panic attack when they are placed in the feared situation and as a result the social / performance situation is avoided. The person’s avoidance of the feared situations interferes with their day-to-day functioning (e.g., relationships with others, school, work). Similar to children with specific phobias, children with social phobias may react in ways other than experiencing anxiety and may not understand that their fears are ungrounded.
Rachman, S. (2004) Anxiety (2nd ed). New York: Psychology Press Ltd