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It's natural to feel self-conscious, nervous, or shy in front of others at times.
Anyone can have a racing heart, sweaty palms, or fluttering stomach when trying out for chorus, asking someone on a first date, or giving a class presentation.
But with selective mutism and social phobia, silence stems from feeling uncomfortable and afraid, not from being uncooperative, disrespectful, or rude. Most of the time, it starts when a person is young.
This means that someone feels physical sensations of fear, like a faster heartbeat and breathing.
With social phobia, this response gets activated too frequently, too strongly, and in situations where it's out of place.
Because the physical sensations that go with the response are real — and sometimes quite strong — the danger seems real, too.
So the person will react by freezing up, and will feel unable to interact.
As the body experiences these physical sensations, the mind goes through emotions like feeling afraid or nervous.