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Social Phobia Special Needs Factsheet

What Teachers Should Know

Social phobia (also called social anxiety) is a type of anxiety disorder. Extreme feelings of shyness and self-consciousness build into a powerful fear for people with social phobia. As a result, they feel uncomfortable participating in everyday social situations, like meeting new people, talking among groups, or speaking in public. People with social phobia can usually interact easily with family and a few close friends, but fear of embarrassment gets in the way of life

Social phobia is a fear reaction to something that isn't actually dangerous — although the body and mind react as if the danger is real. This means people with the disorder actually feel the physical sensations of fear, like a faster heartbeat and breathing. They're more sensitive to fears that they'll be embarrassed, look foolish, make a mistake, or be criticized or laughed at.

Some kids and teens with social phobia are so extremely shy and so fearful about talking to others, that they don't speak at all to certain people (such as teachers or students they don't know) or in certain places (like at someone else's house). This form of social phobia is sometimes called selective mutism.

Students with social phobia may:

What Teachers Can Do

Social phobia is treatable, and therapists can create plans to help students cope.

The best way to help your student is to acknowledge the problem in supportive, non-judgmental ways such as:

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: January 2014

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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