12 March 2004

Questions and answers about social phobia

Read questions that are frequently asked about social phobia.

The Mental Health Information Centre answers some of the frequently asked questions about social phobia.


What causes social phobia?


Social phobia can be thought of as a false alarm. Although the exact cause of social phobia is unknown, there is increasing information about the brain basis of this false alarm. Specific chemical systems in the brain may be responsible for the signs and symptoms of social phobia.


What is the best treatment for social phobia?


Social phobia is best treated by medication and specific psychotherapy techniques. Medications used for social phobia include certain kinds of antidepressants (even though the person may not have depression). Psychotherapy techniques for panic disorder include relaxation techniques and programs for gradual exposure to feared situations. It is often useful to combine both medication and psychotherapy techniques.


How long does treatment take? What is the prognosis of social phobia?


Both medication and behavioural techniques may take several weeks before they are effective. However, a good response is often seen after several months. Most people can look forward to improving significantly with treatment.

Getting Help

The first step is to discuss your symptoms with an experienced professional. So, consult your practitioner or visit your local clinic or day hospital as soon as possible. For information about social phobia or other mental health issues, call the Mental Health Information Centre of South Africa at the University of Stellenbosch 021-938-9229.

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