Why do people have phobias

Social phobia

Causes & Symptoms

Shy = socially fearful?

Shyness is a common and common trait that goes away on its own if you come into contact with the same people more often. If you only speak to strangers in an absolute emergency, it is an expression of strong shyness.
In the case of social phobia, however, the fear is so great that social contacts are avoided entirely or can only be survived with great fear or with aids such as medication.
Characteristic is a pronounced and long-lasting fear of situations in which a confrontation with unknown people or a performance assessment could take place. Those affected fear that they will display humiliating or embarrassing behavior (such as blushing or stuttering) or that they will be judged negatively by others. To prevent this from happening, they often try to avoid the appropriate situations or hide their fears.
Social fears often arise very early - usually as early as puberty.


Research shows that genetic predisposition also plays a role. People with this disposition show a kind of "natural reluctance or inhibition" in social situations in order to be better received by the environment or a group. Children of socially phobic parents are at an increased risk of experiencing fear in social situations.

Learning and life experiences

Often, drastic or socially stressful experiences in childhood or adolescence also play a role. For example, when children are teased, rejected or laughed at. The feeling of having said the wrong thing at school can also lead to great uncertainty, self-doubt and thus fear. Divorce, family conflicts or a parent's mental illness are also negative experiences that can increase the likelihood of illness.

Children who have been teased for years because of their appearance, for example, can later feel inferior as adults and experience fear in contact with other people. With a migration background, the prejudices of the adults can also be carried over to the children. Those affected could be hostile, teased, viewed as inferior and excluded and / or a feeling of exclusion could develop.


Children who are constantly criticized by their parents, receive little love, or experience the feeling that they are disturbing can develop low self-esteem. This can lead to uncertainty and can subsequently be transferred to other areas of life. Children of overprotective parents, on the other hand, may not learn to deal with negative experiences and mistakes. Parents who tend to have few social contacts and place a high value on the opinion of outsiders can be a further factor.


Those affected are often inhibited and shy from early childhood. This part of your personality is particularly evident in new situations or when you come into contact with strangers. They avoid social activities or intensive contacts, also out of fear of rejection or criticism.

Social phobia: causes of this disorder

There is no single cause for the development of social anxiety. Rather, several circumstances come together that contribute to the development of a social phobia, but do not automatically cause it.

Warning signals

  • Fear of scrutiny from other people
  • Afraid to eat in public
  • Afraid to speak in public
  • Afraid of dating the opposite sex
  • blush
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Tremble
  • Racing heart
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • Increased need to urinate
  • blackout
  • Low self-esteem
  • Fear of criticism
  • Pronounced avoidance behavior, social isolation
  • Panic attacks

Symptoms: signs of a social phobia

Those affected often avoid interpersonal contacts because they are afraid of being embarrassed or being rejected. “Small talk” is just as anathema to them as going to a restaurant because they fear being judged negatively or being observed. Other socially anxious people shy away from eating, drinking, or writing in public because they may tremble. For example, some of them turn away from the others while drinking, which makes them all the more eye-catching. Those affected often avoid phone calls with government offices, exchanging goods or obtaining information from strangers, for example asking about the right way.

Social anxiety can be limited to specific situations or affect all social situations. Social fears also include exam fears or the fear of blushing.


Diagnosis: This is how a social phobia is diagnosed

As a rule, we carry out a clinical examination on your premises, backed up by structured interviews and questionnaires. We also carry out differential diagnostic examinations, such as the exclusion of agoraphobia (claustrophobia) or a panic disorder with agoraphobia.

Diagnostic criteria:
  • The pronounced fear of attention and performance situations in which you could embarrass yourself persists for more than six months.
  • Confrontation with a situation in which you are in public or in which an achievement is demanded triggers a fear reaction or panic attack in you.
  • You realize that your behavior is excessive.
  • They avoid certain situations or just get through them under great pressure and feelings of fear.
  • Significant reduction in your quality of life
  • The social phobia is not triggered by medication, drugs, other mental disorders, or physical illnesses.