Social Anxiety Disorder: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
Social Anxiety Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It is characterized by a fear of being watched or judged by others in social situations. Social anxiety disorder is also known as social phobia. Due to a fear of negative judgment, embarrassment, or rejection, people with social anxiety disorder are afraid of or are nervous about particular social settings.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 12.1% of adults in the United States suffer from a social anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Females are more likely to have it than males.
Fear and worry lead to avoidance of social situations and have a negative impact on one’s life. Relationships, daily routines, work, school, and other activities can all be affected by severe stress.
The condition is treatable. People can overcome their symptoms using talk therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and medications.
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Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder
- Bodily symptoms such as flushing, sweating, shaking, nausea, an elevated heart rate, and a “brain freeze”
- Panic sensations or panic attacks
- A phobia of feeling worried or appearing uncomfortable in front of others
- A strong aversion to being judged by others
- Worry or dread in situations involving other individuals, particularly strangers
- Having a strong sense of self-consciousness, embarrassment, or awkwardness in front of others
- Having difficulties communicating
- Avoiding circumstances that are likely to cause anxiety
- During social contacts, a stiff body posture and a quiet voice
- Inability to make or keep eye contact
- Poor self-esteem, sensitivity to criticism, and negative self-talk
Causes of Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder is caused by a variety of factors. It’s possible that genetics play a role and if you have a family member who suffers from social anxiety, you may be more likely to get it yourself. It is possible that it may be linked to an overactive amygdala, which is the region of the brain that controls your fear reaction.
Social anxiety disorder typically develops around 13 years of age. It may be linked to a history of bullying or taunting by peers. Shy children, as well as children with overbearing or controlling parents, are more likely to grow up to be socially anxious adults. You may have social anxiety if you develop a health problem that draws attention to your looks or voice.
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Risk factors of Social Anxiety Disorder
Several factors can increase the risk of developing a social anxiety disorder:
- If your biological parents or siblings have a social anxiety disorder, you have a higher risk of developing it.
- Children who are teased, bullied, rejected, ridiculed, or humiliated are more likely to develop a social anxiety disorder. Other unpleasant life events, such as family conflict, trauma, or abuse, may also be linked to this disorder.
- When confronted with unfamiliar situations or people, children who are shy, timid, withdrawn, or restricted may be at increased risk to develop the disorder.
- Meeting new people, giving a public speech, or giving an important professional presentation can all provoke symptoms for the first time.
- Having face disfigurement, stuttering, or tremors caused by a medical problem can make people feel self-conscious and trigger social anxiety disorder in some people.
Complications of Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder can disrupt your life if it is not treated. Anxieties can interfere with school, work, relationships, or the pleasure of life. This disorder can lead towards complications like:
- Low self-confidence
- Having a hard time being assertive
- Self-talk that is negative
- Criticism hypersensitivity
- Social skills deficits
- Isolation and tense interpersonal relationships
- Academic and job performance are both low.
- Drinking too much alcohol or illicit drug use.
- Suicide or attempted suicide
Other types of anxiety disorders and several other psychological disorders can develop such as depression.
Prevention of Social Anxiety Disorder
You can take the following steps to reduce the impact of symptoms if you’re anxious:
- Setting priorities in your life.
- Avoid unhealthy substance use.
- Get help early.
- Keep a journal and write down your feelings.
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Diagnosis of Social Anxiety Disorder
DSM-5 criteria for the diagnosis of a social anxiety disorder include:
- Anxiety or dread of being judged unfavorably, ashamed, or humiliated in specific social situations.
- Avoiding or enduring anxiety-inducing social settings with great fear or anxiety
- Anxiety that is excessive in comparison to the scenario
- Anxiety or distress that affects your day-to-day life
- Anxiety or fear that isn’t explained by a medical condition, medication, or substance misuse.
Treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder
Psychotherapy (also known as psychological counseling or talk therapy) or medications, or a combination of the two, are the most common treatments for social anxiety disorder.
The majority of patients with social anxiety disorder benefit from psychotherapy. In therapy, you will learn how to recognize and modify negative beliefs about yourself as well as build skills to help you achieve social confidence.
CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy)
CBT is the most successful type of psychotherapy for anxiety, and it can be used either individually or in groups.
In exposure-based CBT, you gradually increase your exposure to the situations that you are most afraid of. This can help you gain the confidence to deal with anxiety-inducing circumstances and enhance your coping abilities.
Medications for social anxiety disorder commonly include:
It’s possible that you’ll have to try a few different antidepressants to discover the one that works best for you and has the fewest negative effects.
Medications to treat anxiety
Benzodiazepines may help you feel less anxious. They’re usually prescribed for just short-term usage since, while they act swiftly, they can be habit-forming and sedating.
These drugs act by preventing epinephrine from boosting in the body. They may lower heart rate, blood pressure, heart-pounding, and trembling voices and limbs. As a result, they may be most effective when used seldom to manage symptoms for a specific occasion, such as giving a speech. They’re not advised for treating social anxiety disorder in general.