Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) guide

We all get anxious and fearful at one point or another in our lives; there have been situations in which we felt extremely uncomfortable and distressed. However, when that starts happening a lot, social anxiety disorder might be the case.

People with social anxiety may have few or no social relationships at all, which makes them susceptible to loneliness more than others.

About 15 million people in the United States have social anxiety and more than 30% of them have experienced the symptoms for long periods of time. These people are not strangers; anyone of them might be your friend, your sibling or even one of your children…

What is social anxiety disorder?

The social anxiety disorder (aka social phobia) is basically the excessive and unreasonable fear of being the focus of other people. In other words, a person with social anxiety disorder might go intensely nervous and too self-conscientious from the fear of being closely watched, criticized or judged by other people.

Making mistakes, looking bad, getting embarrassed or humiliated in public are ones of the most stressful and scaring social situations someone with social anxiety faces daily. People with this kind of disorder might be afraid of doing common and regular things in public like drinking and eating.

Sometimes and as a result of the fear, a person might avoid any possible stressful situation or endure it in extreme distress.

A social anxious person might realize that any stressful situation doesn’t have to be stressful at all and that the fear is completely unreasonable, however, they cannot help the bad feeling that comes along with it; they’re basically unable to overcome it.

Some people suffer from anticipatory anxiety; it’s the fear of a situation for days or weeks before it even happens. And although most people fear more than one social situation—which we call generalized social phobia—, some people may get anxious about specified situations.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of social anxiety aren’t all noticeable as they develop bit by bit, and they’re numerous. Anyway, a person with social anxiety may tend to:

  • Avoid public places
  • Blush and tremble around others
  • Sweat and shake during stressful situations
  • Worry often and intensely
  • Experience stomach ache and diarrhea
  • Feel a muscle tension
  • Get nervous a lot
  • Feel dizzy or faint
  • Feel tightness in chest
  • Hiding in backgrounds in order to escape notice

Symptoms of social anxiety

What causes social anxiety?

Social anxiety might be caused by various things; researches are still looking for more accurate reasons thanks to a number of trials and studies. However, there are main factors that are related to the development of social anxiety.

Biology: Studies have proven that parts of the brain are responsible of feelings of fear and anxiety, so it might be related an abnormal brain functioning.

Genetics: The possibilities of having social anxiety are more likely to rise if a first-degree relative like a parent or sibling already has it.

Temperament: Clingy behavior and shyness are major factors in turning a child or adolescent more timid and socially inhibited person which puts him at the risk of developing social phobia.

Environment: Public humiliation, mistreatment and bullying can lead to developing social phobia. In addition to that, children who are over protected by their parents or families and those who witness uncomfortable situations that happened with others may also develop social anxiety.

When and how social anxiety disorder is diagnosed?

Social phobia can show or start during youth, so diagnosis can happen at a very young age. A doctor will tell if a person suffers from social anxiety disorder if he or she experienced the symptoms and signs for at least 6 months.

At first, the doctor will check the person’s medical history and perform a few essential tests and physical exams. When no physical illnesses are found, the person will be directed to a mental health professional who’s going to determine later if the symptoms shown are linked to social phobia.

 Are there any common triggers to anxiety?

There are actually many situations that provoke anxiety, In other words, there are situations that stimulate the fear. These triggers are so many, but some are listed below:

  • Being the center of attention
  • Public speaking
  • Being teased and criticized
  • Talking on the phone in public
  • Using toilet paper
  • Eating/drinking in public
  • Attending social events
  • Group work/projects
  • Being asked or asking a question

common triggers to anxiety

Is everybody prone to social anxiety disorder?

As we mentioned before, a large part of the American society develop this kind of disorder, men and women, most commonly at young stages of life (childhood and early adolescence). But, that doesn’t neglect the fact that social anxiety can occur at any time.

Actually, social phobia has been classified as the second most common anxiety disorder in the United States, so yes… Anyone could have it.

Can social anxiety disorder be linked to other mental illnesses?

Actually, a large number of people may experience other mental illnesses along with social anxiety disorder. Depression, panic disorder and even OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) can be directly linked to social anxiety.

What are the kinds of treatment a person could get?

There are two different kinds of treatment that doctors use to treat their patients. It’s whether CBT (cognitive-behavior therapy) or medication (drugs).

CBT (cognitive-behavior therapy): CBT is a type of psychotherapy through which a patient is thought different ways of thinking and behaving and the right ways to act and react. CBT tends to guide a person’s thoughts in the rational direction which is going to help him on the long term with facing stressful situations.

Medication: In this case, a doctor would prescribe a drug to the patient. Such medications are usually anti-depressants or anti-anxiety. These drugs are known to be helpful and effective; however, they should not be used for long periods of time. Otherwise, the patient will experience unpleasant results.

How to overcome social anxiety?

If you’re a social anxiety suffer or know someone with social anxiety disorder, then don’t worry about it… There is always a hope for better life, and chances of overcoming such disorder are quite high. Nevertheless, there are few things you should do in order to make it.

Challenge negativity: When you start to think about negative things like “I know I’m going to be laughed at” or “they’re going to yell at me or get mad at me” try to replace that negative thought with more optimistic and realistic suggestions.

Stop personalizing: Try not to personalize each situation you observe, this means stop assuming that what’s ever going wrong with other people has to do with you.

Take control over your breath: Learn how to slow your breathing in bad situations by doing breathing exercises. It will help you relax more and control your anxiety physical symptoms better.

Try to make relationships: Participating in social activities like joining a social skills class or volunteering in doing something you like may help you get a more positive impression on social relationship and overcome your fear.

Stop mindreading: Don’t assume you know what’s in peoples’ minds, the negative thought or image you have on yourself is just something you and only you sees.

Is group therapy a good idea?

If you are looking for help in overcoming social phobia, group therapy is a very good idea, however, any individual who’s considering joining a therapy group must do it after his own will and without any kinds of pressure, otherwise, no improvements will be made.

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