Beat that social phobia..................Back to HOME Good Sites

It's very common to feel nervous about walking into a crowded bar or party. But what if these feelings affect your daily life?

The good news is that you're not alone if walking into a crowded bar, club or party makes your heart race, face flush, palms sweat and mind blank over in dread and fear. Such feelings are surprisingly common - though everybody looks at everybody else and thinks they all look confident and happy. The bad news, though, is that these unwanted thoughts and feelings can sometimes develop until they severely limit all aspects of daily life - career, love, friendship, travel and other opportunities.

Psychologists say as many as one in four people have some degree of social phobia - which is an irrational response to a harmless social situation or relationship. Severe cases are the most common psychiatric disorder after depression and alcoholism - requiring professional help and medication. If you think this sounds like you, then you should see your GP as soon as you can.

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Finding common ground

But what if your feelings aren't quite that severe, yet are enough to make you feel limited? Firstly, it helps to realise you're not the odd one out and to simply rethink things.

Today, many of us spend quite a lot of time alone - at home, sleeping, driving, etc. Everybody has to get up every day and deal with the minutiae of life. There's this common ground. When we go on a night out, everybody puts on a social front and steps up a gear to rise to the occasion - not just you. Look how people dress differently on a Saturday night from a Sunday morning, for instance. Glitz and glamour is the art of making an effort. Make it, but see it for what it is - not life or death, even if it occasionally ends up an unmitigated disaster. Even that is generally acceptable and easily forgotten in most social realms!

The hidden real you

Clinical psychologist, Dr Roy Bailey, says, "Most of us don't see the real us when we're going out pubbing and clubbing and out with mates, where we go out to have a good time and get along with people. We'd only get to know people should a proper friendship start and the mask of this 'social relationship' slips away."

"Remember, underneath, other people may also have to struggle about what they're going to say next. Ask them questions, so they'll talk and you'll be able to concentrate on them. It takes the focus away from you. Once you practise that you know it's not always going to be you in the spotlight all the time if you're naturally sensitive to that - there's a way of offloading it and deflecting the interest," he adds.

"Be careful how you describe yourself too. If you say, 'I'm shy', you're telling other people how to see you as well as undermining your own confidence. They're thinking, 'Oh, I've got a big job on my hands tonight'. Try re-labelling yourself by saying, 'I'm a sensitive person. I like people to be considerate.' That way, you change the signals you send out to other people. You can do that - even though you don't believe it!"

Other things to cut out are too much alcohol or using drugs; being too self-conscious or over aware - then making negative judgements on yourself; endless torturous mental rehearsals and replays; leaving it to your friends to make the effort to get you out and then droning on and on about how lousy you feel when they do! Instead, stay light hearted, be a great listener, persist and get more familiar with a social scene that you'll truly relish, and remember: flashing a lovely smile is a sure fire hit to social success.