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Social Phobia May Contribute to Your Eating Disorder


Some dysregulated eaters suffer from social phobia, which escalates anxiety in certain relationships or socializing in general. Someone who has it is at risk in social settings, especially where they may feel judged, and it may cause them to eat unhealthfully before, during or after being in these situations. Criteria include: 

  • "Marked fear or anxiety about one or more social situations in which the individual is exposed to possible scrutiny by others.
  • The fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual threat posed by the social situation and to the sociocultural context.
  • The social situations almost always provoke fear or anxiety.
  • The social situations are avoided or endured with intense fear or anxiety.
  • The fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  • The fear, anxiety or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting for 6 months or more.
  • The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition.
  • The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is not better explained by symptoms of another mental disorder, such as panic disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, or autism spectrum disorder.
  • If another medical condition is present, the fear, anxiety, or avoidance is clearly unrelated or is excessive."

You might have social phobia if you: fear being judged by people when such a fear is unwarranted; think everyone is scrutinizing how you look or what you say; dread what others might think of you; suffer severely in social or performance settings; or avoid or try to avoid social situations because you know you’ll be uncomfortable in them. 

Emotions in social phobia are intense. They’re not the mild case of butterflies you feel before your performance review with your boss or the jitters you experience walking on stage to give a talk or accept an award. Rather, you’re sure you’ll be judged as lacking, know you’ll make a fool of yourself or dread being highly uncomfortable in a situation. 

You can see how this might lead to unwanted eating. If you’re terrified before meeting your fiancé’s parents or your new supervisor, you might turn to food. Alternately, you may be so tense in social or performance settings that you eat when they’re over to release tension. If you think you have social phobia, get help from a therapist.