Social phobia: A paralyzing fear of interacting with others. Symptoms include excessive blushing, sweating, trembling, rapid heartbeat, muscle tension, nausea, and extreme anxiety. Social phobia can occur in very young children or emerge at a later age. It can be disabling to a person's work and social and family relationships. Many people with social phobia have trouble reaching their educational and professional goals or even maintaining employment. They may depend on others financially and try to relieve anxiety by using alcohol and drugs. In extreme cases, a person with social phobia may begin to avoid all social situations and become housebound. Treatment options include using medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy, which employs exposure and response prevention. Medications for social phobias include antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), as well as high-potency benzodiazepenes. People with the specific form of social phobia called performance phobia may be helped with drugs called beta blockers.
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