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Terror! Fear! Loneliness! Anxiety! All of these are the lot of the person who is plagued by a phobia – an intense, unrealistic fear of an object, an event or a feeling. About 12 % of Americans will suffer from a phobia at some point in their lives. The subject of a phobia may be any of hundreds of different things - they range from simple phobias which focus on fear of an object or a situation to a condition known as agoraphobia, which impels a sufferer to avoid all places and situations where previous panic attacks have occurred. Those who suffer from social phobia avoid all public settings.
Of all phobias, it is safe to say that social phobia is the most crippling. This intense fear of being scrutinized by others can lead to panic attacks, to heart palpitations, to faintness, and to shortness of breath. Social phobia is far more than shyness. It interferes with one’s daily living and hampers relationships. How, then, can a person learn to control their social phobia. Here are what the experts recommend:
(1) Take control of the physical symptoms of your phobia. Learn to control your breathing. You may have noticed that anxiety causes you to breathe in too shallow a way or that it is too fast. Practise inhaling and exhaling slowly. Breathe through the nose rather than the mouth. Try to breathe from the diaphragm. It is also important to get regular exercise and sufficient rest. Cut back on caffeine and don’t skip meals.
(2) Challenge the beliefs behind your phobia. People are not pre-occupied with analysing your every move. And even if you do or say something wrong, people will not disapprove of you as a person. Your thinking in these areas may be distorted. Try to reassess them logically Of course, there will inevitably be failure and rejection in life. Learn, however, not to attach too much importance to these times.
(3) Confront your fears. Do this slowly and be patient with your progress. You may start by attending a gathering, then engaging in conversation on a one on one basis. You may even advance to the stage of giving a public address in front of a group of your peers. This will not be easy, but once you push yourself to this extent you will learn that others will not disapprove of you for expressing yourself in public.

These suggestions have helped many to control social phobia. If your fears persist, however, do not shy away from seeking medical treatment. Your doctor will be more than willingly to help you break away from the shackles of social phobia.