Most of us have phobias. It is a disorder that gives us irrational fear and anxiety when it is triggered. Some of these particular phobias can affect our socialising skills and anyone with these types of phobias will find it hard to communicate with the people around them.
Human beings are social creatures. The communication we have with each other help us strive further together. It is through these day-to-day interactions that we can express ourselves and come to an understanding to solve problems together.
Certainly, the neuroscience of our human social behaviour is more complex than this but there is no argument as to how communication is at the heart of our human society. It is how we have progressed to the civilization we have today and it is also vital to our well-being.
Our social Interactions with each other helps to regulate and maintain our thoughts and emotions, thus keeping our minds in good health. However, not everyone has the privilege of communicating with ease due to their phobias in various social situations.
Phobias are anxiety disorders that cause a person to experience intense irrational fear. Specific objects or situations can trigger a phobia in someone. Most of us do experience one or two types of phobia, they affect individuals differently. Say, for example, a person with Acrophobia (fear of heights) would begin to feel dizzy, breathless, shaking, and sweating when they are high off the ground.
While those with the fear of height can avoid high places, social phobias on the other hand can be very disruptive as they interfere with one's daily life. Like all phobias, those with social anxieties will also experience some kind of hyper-reaction as compared to the normal fear response and they are often not within one's control.
Phobias could be an inherited trait, but many are developed through the trauma of negative experiences. Those with social phobias would experience significant anxiety in daily social situations as compared to those who don't. When a phobia is triggered, their heart beats faster, and in extreme cases, they may even feel nausea or sweaty.
There is a common misperception that introverts are more likely to have these phobias due to the lack of socialising. Truth is, both extroverts or introverts can have a social anxiety disorder. Individuals with phobias in socialising tend to have difficulties interacting with other people, their fear and anxieties often lead to avoidance that can affect their work, school, routine, and everyday activities.
Here are a few types of social phobias that can interfere with one's daily life.
Agoraphobia is the fear of being vulnerable outside of their comfort zone. People with this disorder avoid open spaces or places with the public around. They can experience anxiety even at the thought of being stuck in large crowds or having to deal with social situations alone. They have negative thoughts of being out in public spaces and suffer great fear that they could be trapped in an environment where they cannot escape.
People with agoraphobia tend to stay at home. They are afraid of leaving their comfort zone and this can affect their daily activities. Even a simple trip to get groceries can be inconvenient for them. They would try to avoid sharing transportation, and some would get panic attacks when they have to ride in an elevator with others.
If you know someone with agoraphobia, never trivialize their feelings of fear. Be kind and understanding. Let them feel more at ease by assuring them that though you may not understand their experience completely, you are there to listen without any judgment. It is helpful just to let them know that you care and that they have nothing to feel ashamed about.
Anthropophobia is a crippling fear of people. Unlike agoraphobia, who fear the situation with crowds, people with anthropophobia is afraid of everyone, even family members and close friends in extreme cases. There is an intense fear of being judged or rejected by people. They usually withdraw themselves from any social event and prefer to communicate with others via writing letters or sending text messages.
A person might develop anthropophobia after one or many bad experiences of being betrayed. Their experience has led them to have trust issues. A person with anthropophobia could fight their fear by seeking professional help and slowly coming out from their social isolation. It can be hard at first. But by replacing their negative perceptions of people with positive ones, they can gradually learn to trust and feel safe again.
Autophobia is an irrational fear of being alone. This phobia is the total opposite of agoraphobia. A person with autophobia has a constant need for a companion and people around to feel safe.
Just the idea of being alone (even in the comfort of their own home) could trigger anxieties leading to hyperventilation. One of the downsides of autophobia is it affects a person's ability to live independently as they live with the constant threat of being alone, and both their body and mind are asking them to flee from solitude.
This social disorder may come from past trauma of being abandon or left in isolation. When alone, people with autophobia tend to have negative thoughts of being unloved or begin to imagine danger in their surroundings with no one there to help them. A person with autophobia can deal with their disorder by building up their confidence again through exposure therapy. By facing their fear of being alone in a safe environment, they can gradually decrease their doubts and negative thoughts on being alone over time.
Chiraptophobia (also known as Haphephobia) is the fear of being touch. A person with this disorder tends to avoid any social gathering to prevent the invasion of personal space. They fear being touch by other people, regardless if those people are strangers or families and friends. Therefore, they are prone to live in isolation. This secluded lifestyle also interferes with their ability to socialise with others normally and could lead to agoraphobia as well.
The fear of being touched may be caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Some people developed chiraptophobia from past trauma after being harassed or physically abused. These victims also sometimes develop other disorders such as fear of germs or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
If the fear of being touched is interfering with one's ability to function normally in everyday activities, one should seek professional help to manage the condition too. Through the desensitization process, patients can gradually learn to overcome the fear of being touched, removing negative associations towards it, one at a time.
Philophobia is the fear of falling in love. A person might get this disorder after breaking up from a failed relationship and has difficulties moving on. Due to this, people with philophobia might find it hard to open themselves up with other people because there is the fear of being disappointed and hurt again.
People with philophobia avoid situations that have anything to do with love. Their fear of any potential romantic relationships would cause them to remain in the comfort of living a single life and avoid becoming emotionally dependent on anyone at all costs. As a result, those with philophobia could have trouble having any long-lasting relationships.
Like other phobias, philophobia can also be treated either with medications or therapy today. The negative mindset towards love can be altered slowly so that one can have positive thoughts about being in a relationship once more.
How to know when you should seek professional help?
When your phobia interferes with your daily routine and leading a normal life becomes challenging, that is when you know you should seek help.
Start by being kind to yourself and know that it is not your fault because phobias can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, and social background. Recognize that fears beyond the typical apprehensiveness would lead to more intense emotional and physical reactions. It varies from person to person but the most common symptoms for phobias are panic attacks, rapid heartbeat, sweating, nausea, extreme avoidance, and difficulty to function normally.
Most of us have phobias. Some have an extreme fear of height and some with an irrational fear of snakes. However, these fears are more commonly known as more have opened up about them. Social anxieties on the other hand are less spoken about as people who suffer from them are fearful of social situations to start with.
The good news is that there are treatments for various kinds of phobias.
If you know anyone with these social phobias, do not pressure them into doing things that they are not ready to do yet. Instead, support them by offering them a safe and non-judgmental environment to open up. Then encourage them to seek help or help them to find the help they need when the time is right. In fact, educating ourselves to understand individuals who live with these fears is a way of support too!
Those with social phobias live in constant conflict with the human basic need to connect with people and the goal is to help improve their quality of life so that their phobias will not limit their ability to live out their daily lives. Everyone deserves to lead a healthy quality of life. STAY SAFE!!!