People with social phobia are not just "shy." People with social phobia have an intense feeling that they will be negatively received, that is, that they will be ridiculed, laughed at, thought poorly of, or in some form or another, be humiliated by others. Such people avoid groups of people, sometimes are too self-conscious to eat in front of others, and in extreme cases are uncomfortable with all people except their immediate family members.
People with a specific phobia have an intense and unrealistic fear of some specific situation or object. As is the case with almost all illnesses, specific phobias range from very mild to very intense. Some people with specific phobia are afraid of blood, spiders, heights, flying, public speaking and medical procedures. Just about every object you can imagine can serve as a target for specific phobia. In extreme cases, specific phobias can become debilitating and interfere with normal living. Many years ago I treated a woman who was petrified of fish; dead fish, live fish, cooked fish, pictures of fish, carvings of fish.....all fish. As you can imagine she couldn't read magazines for fear of seeing a picture of fish, couldn't watch t.v. for the same reason, couldn't go to restaurants for fear of seeing cooked fish on someone's plate and as a result was terrified on a day to day basis.
This is a disorder which develops after a person experiences an event as being a severe trauma such as a car accident, gun fight, mugging, airplane crash, or the like. The person may experience intense anxiety and fear, have flashbacks of the traumatic event, have many of the symptoms of depression such as trouble sleeping, lack of enjoyment in normal activities including withdrawal from others.
Generalized anxiety disorder or G.A.D. is an ongoing day-to-day chronically anxious, tense and worrying orientation. Many people with G.A.D. feel an intense but ill-defined fear or sense of dread. People suffering from G.A.D. cannot "chill-out." They worry constantly about everything from money, job, health, family; the list is endless. Many people don't realize they are suffering from G.A.D. as they assume it is just their personality and don't realize it is a treatable illness. If you think you may be suffering from G.A.D., ask yourself:
1. Do I worry excessively about minor issues?
2. Am I nervous most of the time?
3. Am I stressed most days?
If the answer to these questions are yes and you have been doing this for more than six months, you may be suffering from G.A.D. Generalized anxiety disorder is treatable. You don't have to suffer; it is not your personality!
Agoraphobia literaly means "fear of open spaces." However, this is very misleading. In reality agoraphobia is associated with internal states of anxiety and avoiding experiencing anxiety. People suffering from agoraphobia avoid situations which they feel will trigger a panic attack. For example, many people avoid being far from home or fear leaving their home for fear of not being near a hospital if they have a "life threatening" panic attack. Others fear driving, crowds, shopping, or being alone.
An obsession is a recurrent irrational thought. For example, did I remember to shut the stove off? A compulsion is a recurrent irrational behavior. For example, going to check to see if I shut the stove off. You may ask, "What is irrational about wondering if I shut the stove off and then checking to see whether in fact it is off?" Of course, there is nothing irrational about this. What turns a simple thought into an obsession and a simple behavior into a compulsion is their repititiveness. When thoughts and actions repeat themselves over and over again and do not lend themselves to "proof" that they are untrue, then they qualify to be called obsessions and compulsions and the person experiencing them is suffering from an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Such an individual would wonder if they shut the stove off, return to the kitchen and check, leave the house, get into the car, start driving away, and again wonder if they shut off the stove, even though they just checked, and return to the kitchen to check again. This may repeat itself several times. No matter how much "proof" they experience, they soon are overpowered by the question and forced to repeat the behavior.