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Ask The Experts

Only Shy in Class


Growing up through childhood and even now as a young adult, I’ve struggled with social situations whenever I’m in a classroom. My situation is sort of odd because whenever I’m outside of a classroom and in the general public (grocery store, mall,etc.) I can communicate well, express myself well and be a real people person. All of this “bubbly” personality changes once I set foot into a classroom filled with 50-60 people. I completely shut down and just want to sit there, do my work and don’t want to be asked any questions by the instructor or anyone. I’m working towards becoming a dentist and I don’t have a problem talking with the general public, it’s just whenever I’m in a classroom setting, I close up. It’s really frustrating but I don’t know how to fix the problem.

Victor Schwartz, M.D., Medical Director, The Jed Foundation answers:

What you are describing is a specific phobia-in other words, a fear that comes up in a specific situation or circumstance. It is not clear from your note whether you have ever tried any form of therapy for this problem. There are some types of brief focused therapy, such a cognitive-behavior therapy or systematic desensitization, that can be very helpful in dealing with this type of problem. These therapies are simple and brief and many people find them to be very helpful. You might go to your school counseling center and see whether they can provide you with this treatment of send you to a clinic or clinician who can.