This is very similar to generalized social phobia. Those with the disorder think of themselves as being inadequate, unlikeable and socially inept. They fear being rejected, criticised or ridiculed and would rather avoid most social situations. The reasons can differ may be related to emotional neglect and peer group rejection in childhood and/ or adolescence. Symptoms may include the following:
- Hypersensitivity to rejection/criticism
- Self-imposed social isolation
- Extreme shyness or anxiety in social situations. (However, the person still has a strong desire for close and meaningful relationships)
- May avoid physical contact with others (because it is associated with emotional or physical pain)
- Painful feelings of inadequacy
- Poor self-esteem
- Intense feelings of self consciousness
- Self hatred or self-loathing
- Mistrust of others
- Emotional distancing/ fear of intimacy
- Highly critical of their ability to relate naturally and appropriately to others
- Do not feel they can connect with others (although others may view them as easy to relate to)
- Intense feelings of inferiority.
- In more extreme cases, may suffer from agoraphobia.
Treatment approaches include social skills training, cognitive therapy, gradually increasing exposure to social situations, group therapy and, occasionally, drug therapy. Gaining and keeping the client’s trust is essential for progress to be made.