Social phobia must be treated

I am a 23-year-old guy and I suffer from social phobia. Can you please give me contacts for any support groups around Johannesburg. Thank you.

Anonymous, Soweto

You have not mentioned how severe your phobia is, but I am going to presume that it is bad enough to make you worried.

Sister Sledgehammer surfed the Internet to get info for an answer to your question, and this is what I learnt.

Social phobia, which is also known as social anxiety disorder, is "an intense fear of scrutiny by other people in a social situation, or a fear of doing something embarrassing or humiliating in a social situation. The phobias may present themselves as a fear of being around other people, or a fear of making a speech, conversing with an authority figure, dating or even signing cheques in public".

People who suffer from social phobia usually think they are incompetent in public, and that every other person is capable in these situations. Small mistakes that others usually ignore become huge problems and are turned into anxiety-inducing events.

Social phobia is not shyness. Shy people will often feel uneasy in the presence of others, but they do not go through the extreme anxiety of anticipating a social situation, and they do not necessarily avoid situations which might make them feel self-conscious. People with social phobia, on the other hand, are not necessarily shy but may instead be fearful only of particular situations. The fear of social events can begin weeks before the event, and the terror may loom so big that the person will avoid the event.

People suffering from social phobia respond well to drug therapy but, according to experts, "it is important to realise that social phobia is a chronic condition that requires long-term treatment".

For help, call the Depression and Anxiety Support Group on 011-783-1474 or visit