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Forum Name: Psychiatric Topics

Question: extreme fear of being around people in a classroom


 Babyduck11 - Tue Jul 13, 2010 1:53 am

I am a current college student at a university. My class sizes range from about 15 to 350 people. When I'm in a classroom with a low number of people, I feel extremely uneasy. I become very nauseated and sometimes lightheaded, and the feeling doesn't go away throughout the entire class period which can last anywhere from 55 minutes to 3 hours. However, if I'm taking notes and keeping busy then I'm fine. Also, if it's a professor that randomly calls you out, then I feel extremely uneasy then as well. On the other hand, in a classroom with a large number of people, I am fine. This has gotten really bad the past year. I started college in 2006 and I have been fine until this past year. It's getting to the point where I will not go to class, so I'm failing a lot of classes because of this very reason.

Also, I have an extreme fear of talking on the phone with anyone (moreso me being the one to call someone). I also will hardly ever go anywhere alone unless I really have to. I get the same sick feeling when starting a new job. It's even as bad as I will not order at the drive-thru; I make whoever is with me order the food. And in restaurants, sometimes this sick/anxious feeling will bother me, especially if the seating is close together or if it's crowded. What is wrong with me?? Do I have anxiety or what? Can this be cured, or is there anything I can do to make this better?
 Faye Lang, RN, MSW - Fri Jul 16, 2010 2:35 pm

Hello, Babyduck11,

Your symptoms seem to fall into the general category of anxiety, and, after evaluation is completed, might turn out to be a social phobia (also known as social anxiety disorder). The exact diagnosis can only be made through a detailed clinical interview with a therapist (such as a psychologist) or a psychiatrist. There are two general types of social phobia: performance phobia, which relates to fears of doing something in the presence of others and being easily visible, and interactional phobia, which relates to fears of engaging with others, particularly in public. The social anxiety can interfere with education, public social activities and personal relationships. The condition is considered to be a chronic condition that is most effectively treated by using both medication and cognitive-behavioral "talk" therapy. The condition occurs more in females than in males, and most often develops in the teenage years, although it can develop sooner or later than that. It can be related to physical conditions, such as obesity, disfigurement (real or perceived), medical diagnoses such as Parkinsonism, or other anxiety disorders. The types of medications used in the treatment of social anxiety are antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and/or beta-blockers. Beta blockers are particularly useful in the performance type of social anxiety. The drugs may be used in any combination, and likely would require adjustments to establish the highest level of function. Treatment really does help. I think it's helpful to maintain a daily record of symptoms, which would describe the symptom, what time it started, what you were doing when it started, how long it lasted, what seemed to help or make it worse, and any other information that you consider important. Take your record with you to all medical and therapist appointments. Please see a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist as soon as you can, so that your anxiety condition, whether or not it's social phobia, can be treated and you can be back to your usual functional level. I hope this is helpful to you, and I wish you the best of luck.

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