What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Being shy when meeting new people is relatively common. It is easy for people to be a bit self-conscious in new social situations. However, when those feelings of discomfort affect your quality of life, then it may have crossed over to social anxiety disorder.
What is Social Anxiety?
We all know what general anxiety is, but it comes in various forms. Under the umbrella of anxiety disorders, there are more specific phobias. Social anxiety disorder is one such disorder that is regarded as a phobia of social situations. You feel intense fear about interacting with people, whether they are strangers or acquaintances. You become stressed at the thought of going to places with a lot of people because you do not want to be judged— it may be like the feeling you get before a job interview, but all the time.
A lot of the time, you may negatively visualize what others might think about you if an interaction does not go as well as you wanted. For example, you might immediately jump to the conclusion that the other party didn’t like you, thought you were weird, or even hated you.
Social anxiety is a difficult thing to live with. You may want to do all these things that others seem to do effortlessly— make friends, go to events, experience new things with people, be included in groups —but you feel that your anxiety holds you back.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety
- Racing heart.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Tense or sore muscles.
- Feeling of butterflies in the stomach, or nausea.
- Excessive sweating.
- Feeling lightheaded.
- Shortness of breath.
- Fear of engaging in conversation with strangers.
- Fear of judgement from people.
- Feeling nervous or embarrassed when talking to others.
- Feeling extremely self-conscious and insecure.
- Ruminating about how others perceive you.
- Being self-critical about how you act in front of others.
- Anxiety about social situations.
- Anxiety when being observed by others.
- Avoidance of certain situations as a result of anxiety.
Based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition (DSM-5), these symptoms are usually recurrent over a period of at least half a year. Symptoms can vary from person to person and across periods of time. Sometimes people may experience a panic attack from the extreme fear of certain social situations.
A panic attack is a severe reaction caused by overstimulation of anxious feelings in which one might feel breathless, experience heart palpitations, nausea, or shaking. Such attacks are sudden and can be terrifying, to the point where people believe they are having a heart attack.
Treatment for Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is definitely manageable— the first thing you should do if you believe you may have social anxiety is to speak with a mental health professional. A professional can help figure out the extent of your symptoms and work with you to plan a treatment strategy. Mental health practitioners can also suggest coping skills that help in times of distress. There are several treatment options you can embark on, including various types of therapy and medication.
For social anxiety, therapy is generally the best treatment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is most commonly used to reprogram your mind. CBT combines identifying negative thought patterns and habitual behaviors that you struggle with. Thoughts lead to feelings, which lead to behavior— by recognizing the thoughts that perpetuate your social anxiety, you can take the next step to challenge them.
There is also support group therapy, in which a group of people who struggle with a similar issue talk about their experiences in a controlled setting. This is especially useful for those with social anxiety because it can be less daunting when you know everyone around you understands you and feels the same. Many people can learn to improve their social skills and even make friends through support groups.
Finally, medications exist that can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety in social situations, especially if your symptoms are uncontrollable. Depending on what your doctor may advise, you can be prescribed antidepressants, which work well for many anxiety disorders. Medication is best used in conjunction with therapy. While medication is a short-term solution, therapy can teach you skills that can continue to benefit you in the long-term. Because there is a wide selection of possible antidepressants, it may take some trial-and-error to find the most optimal one for your body and brain chemistry.
Get Help Today
If any of the symptoms mentioned here are something you struggle with, visit your healthcare provider. Do not think that your issues are minuscule compared to others— more importantly, never feel that you are alone. Social Anxiety Disorder is one of the most common anxiety disorders. Therapy and other treatment can prevent further escalation of this disorder, especially when you seek it at the earliest time possible.