Why Am I Afraid of People?

Understand more about your fear of people.
A severe fear of people may be social anxiety disorder. Getty / Ronnie Casson

If you are excessively afraid of people to the point that it interferes with your daily functioning, you might be suffering with social anxiety disorder (SAD).

Below are a series of questions you might be wondering and facts about SAD to answer those questions.

What is social anxiety disorder?

People with SAD are intensely afraid of social and performance situations for fear of being embarrassed, humiliated or judged negatively.

The disorder is more than just ordinary shyness and requires diagnosis by a mental health professional.

What has caused my social anxiety?

We don't know the precise reasons why some people develop this problem and others do not; however, research suggests it is probably a combination of genetic factors and your environment. Scientists have found specific gene variations potentially related to social anxiety; as this area of research unfolds we will learn more about the exact causes of the disorder.

Is it normal to be afraid in some situations and not others?

The situations in which you are afraid of people might vary if you suffer from social anxiety disorder.

Some people have very narrow worries, such as only being afraid of speaking in public. This is known as specific SAD and is usually less chronic and severe than generalized social anxiety disorder, which involves most social and performance situations.

People with SAD usually feel the worst in situations where they are the center of attention or speaking to someone in authority.

What kind of symptoms go along with social anxiety?

Your fear might manifest itself in a variety of symptoms, such as the following:

  • shaking hands

In addition to being afraid of people, you are also afraid that others will notice your anxiety. It is a "fear of fear" cycle of panic that develops and can be hard to break free from on your own. Fortunately there are effective treatments for this problem.

What are the treatments for social anxiety disorder?

SAD is best treated using a combination of medication and therapy. Selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the first choice in terms of medication treatment for social anxiety disorder. When combined with talk therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), treatment success rates are very good.

If you do find that your fear of people is overwhelming, it is important to seek out help from your doctor or a mental health professional to receive a diagnosis and/or treatment.

Sources:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Social Anxiety Disorder

National Institutes of Mental Health. Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder)

Social Anxiety Institute. What is Social Anxiety Disorder? 

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