People with social phobia have marked and persistent fear of social or performance situations in which the person feels she is being exposed to scrutiny by others. She would usually feel that she would act in a way, or show anxiety symptoms, that will be humiliating or embarrassing.

This fear interferes with work and other ordinary activities. Physical symptoms often accompany the anxiety of social phobia and include:

  • Blushing
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty talking.

Social phobia can be limited to only one type of situation – such as a fear of speaking in formal or informal situations, eating or drinking in front of others or, in its most severe form, a person may experience symptoms almost anytime they are around other people

People with social phobia may have lived with it for a long time. For new mothers their role as a parent may provide an opportunity to overcome this or it may make things more difficult.

New mothers have to face many situations in which they or their baby are the focus of attention e.g. family get-togethers, Plunket or mothers groups. These situations may be very uncomfortable for someone with social phobia. However having a baby may encourage some women to feel less anxious as the focus may be on the baby. For some mothers there is extra motivation to overcome their social phobia for the benefit of their child.

Another concern for some mothers can be feeling that their parenting skills are being judged. This may discourage them from going out.

Breastfeeding in front of other people is something that any mother can be self conscious about initially. Breastfeeding in public or in front of others can be particularly anxiety provoking for mothers with social phobia. They often avoid it completely which can cause considerable inconvenience. They may give up breastfeeding completely due to their anxiety.