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Most of us become nervous before certain social events. Dinner out with the boss, a high school reunion, or meeting future in-laws can be worrisome. Some people will fuss for hours wondering what to wear or what to talk about on such occasions. Anyone who has ever given a speech or a business presentation has probably experienced some butterflies before stepping up to the microphone.

The key element of social phobia is extreme anxiety about being judged by others or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or ridicule. The person with social phobia believes that all eyes are on him. The anxiety can lead to panic-like attacks, including such symptoms as heart palpitations, faintness, shortness of breath, and profuse sweating. Whether or not they have panic reactions, people with social phobia generally expend considerable energy avoiding feared situations.

Social phobia is selective. A person may have an intense fear of a single circumstance such as public speaking, but be perfectly comfortable in all other social settings. Others may have several phobias and become anxious about a variety of situations in which their performance might be observed.



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