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Ask the Mental Health Expert Archives 2001-2004

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Social Phobic Disorder

Q. I am a 18-year-old college student and I have a serious problem. I miss a lot of class because I am scared to be around a lot people. I don't go to any parties or social events because I feel that everyone is talking about me. I have missed out on a lot in life and I am fed up with it. My grades are suffering and I don't know what to do. Can you help me?

A. Lots of people share the problem you describe, though it may have different causes and treatments for any given person. For example, social phobic disorder (SPD) is a common condition, in which the person fears various social situations such as public speaking, parties, etc. Usually, SPD sufferers fear that others will judge them harshly, ridicule them, or in some way find them inadequate.

This can be a very debilitating condition, and may lead to complications such as alcohol abuse if it is not treated. Some people have a more severe problem, and believe that others are plotting against them, planning to harm them, etc. This is usually not SPD, but some other psychiatric disorder that also needs treatment.

I can't say what your problem is, but I would strongly urge you to get a complete mental health evaluation with either a psychologist or psychiatrist. If your college has a mental health clinic, that would also be a good place to start. SPD responds quite well to either cognitive-behavioral forms of psychotherapy, or to medication such as Prozac or Zoloft. Even if your condition is more severe, there are good treatments available to you. There is no need to suffer alone with this problem, so please do get help!

March 2003

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