Anxiety is crippling. It can suck up all your joy and confidence and leave you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Anxiety disorders breed specific phobias, and specific phobias breed anxiety.
There are a few main types of anxiety, these are:
- Panic Disorder
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Specific Phobias
Social anxiety has only recently been recognized as a disorder. It is now understood to be as crippling as the others.
Sometimes, the original cause of our anxieties, be it panic attacks, trauma or social situations, can create more specific phobias as a result. Psychologically speaking, these phobias arise as a result of our desire to protect ourselves from what we consider to be triggers of our anxiety.
For example, as a recovered agoraphobic, I had feared that small spaces would be harder to escape from. I developed claustrophobia as a result. I felt that any small space, such as an elevator, would be triggering for my anxiety. This led me to be terrified of anything to do with tight spaces.
Social anxiety is not uncommon. If you experience social anxiety, you might feel afraid in social situations. This ranges from a party to an intimate gathering, with friends or with strangers.
Social anxiety, like any anxiety disorder, can create all sorts of terrible specific phobias too.
Scopophobia is a specific phobia and a common branch of social anxiety. It is the crippling fear of being watched, or even being looked at. Usually, this specific phobia comes about due to a fear of being looked at and judged negatively as a result.
This can typically be because of an insecurity with your physical appearance. This insecurity causes a person to worry that strangers, or even loved ones will think they’re ugly if they’re looked at directly.
Sometimes, this phobia can be caused when a person has a disability that they fear judgment for. This could be Tourette’s syndrome or Epilepsy, or other neurological disorders that a person fears the public will judge them for if they notice it. The phobia can also act as a catalyst for a cycle. When a person fears judgment when they’re looked at, they may worry that the anxiety will cause a tick that they are afraid others will notice.
This phobia spans across all sorts of circumstances. While some may fear being stared at by strangers, others may go as far as to fear any eye contact with familiar people.
This specific phobia is all too common. Some research even suggests that up to 75% of all people have this phobia to some degree. Glossophobia is the specific fear of public speaking.
A person with this phobia is likely to experience a range of physical symptoms in these situations. These symptoms present in a situation where they have to speak to, or in front of, a large group of people. This might include dry mouth, sweating and blushing. Some people with this specific phobia might even find themselves freezing completely when having to speak in public.
Having a phobia of public speaking can be debilitating and could lead to avoidance of work or school, where giving a presentation is often required. If the fear is severe, then the sufferer might even be afraid to speak in front of a small group of their own friends. Though the phobia’s specific name addresses “public speaking” as the fear, it does include all kinds of speaking in public.
Telephobia is a specific phobia where they sufferer has a severe fear of phone calls. A person with this phobia might be an outgoing, confident type in person. They could happily deliver a speech in front of a crowd, but a phone call? Terrifying.
This specific phobia is based on the fear of saying the wrong thing in the moment. They tend to feel that talking on the phone is means being put on the spot. This gives them no time to format a good response.
A strong aversion to feeling judged or embarrassed means a person with Telephobia would rather send an e-mail or text. If you suffer from Telephobia, you probably avoid phone calls as much as you possibly can. You may even sweat at the thought of an unexpected call, especially from a stranger or someone you have to impress.
Paruresis is a medical condition caused by the specific phobia of using public bathrooms. It is sometimes also known as “shy bladder”. A person with paruresis can become so panicked in a public bathroom that they can’t urinate at all.
This specific phobia has two conflicting causes. Some people with paruresis are afraid to be unable to urinate. They fear that if they don’t, other bathroom users will judge them as weird. On the other hand, some with the same phobia will be afraid to be heard in case strangers think they’re disgusting. Like all of these fears, a phobia of public bathrooms stems from a fear of being judged negatively in public.
Typically, a common way of handling this phobia is to run the faucet while they use the bathroom. They might also talk loudly, or play music, anything to cover the sound. Some people with this specific phobia will avoid using public bathrooms altogether. In severe cases, a sufferer might even become housebound to prevent ever having to use a public bathroom.
Phobia of Eating in Public
Though this one doesn’t have an official name, it is as serious as the others. Some people fear judgment or embarrassment so intensely that they avoid eating in public at all. This comes from a belief that they’ll be deemed gross or even called fat, simply for eating. Sometimes, a sufferer might also fear eating with bad manners and being outcast.
This can have a serious impact on daily life. A person who suffers from this specific phobia might avoid any social event where eating is a possibility. This could even include being in their own home if others are around. A sufferer might also avoid important work or school occasions that are held over dinner or lunch when the phobia is severe.
Ultimately, this phobia can lead to exclusion and missed opportunities due to how much of our lives are based around food and drink.
Unfortunately, having a phobia of eating in public can also cause the sufferer to become malnourished and unhealthy. This is especially a concern when they’re required to be at school or work most of the week, so miss many meals in a row.
Social anxiety is a crippling burden to carry. Countless people around the world experience these specific phobias and so many more, so know you are never alone in your experience!
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