Some social situations can make us feel nervous. It might feel like butterflies in your stomach when you go on a date or presentation. Having a social anxiety disorder can bring about avoidance that disrupts your life. Your daily routine, school, work, or other activities may be affected by severe stress.
It is estimated that 12.1% of American adults have experienced a social anxiety disorder at least once in their lives. Social phobia affects more women than men.
The good news is that social anxiety disorder can be treated. Talking therapy, medications, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) are effective ways to treat symptoms.
Find out more about: Phobia and its types
What is social anxiety disorder?
Social anxiety disorder or social phobia, or, occurs when a person feels uncomfortable in social environments. Social phobia makes it difficult for the person to communicate with other people, meet new people, and attend social gatherings.
They don’t want to face being scrutinized or judged by others. Even they know the fear may be unreasonable or irrational, but the individual feels powerless to cope with it.
Shyness is different from social anxiety. Shyness is usually short-lived and does not interfere with one’s life. The symptoms of social anxiety are persistent and debilitating. People with a social anxiety disorder may find it difficult to:
- Attend school
- Or build close relationships with others
Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that an estimated 15 million American adults suffer from a social anxiety disorder. These symptoms usually appear around the age of 13.
Read: COVID Anxiety Syndrome
Social anxiety disorder symptoms
The symptoms of social anxiety disorder are categorized into two social phobia symptoms. Physical symptoms of social interaction may include:
- Excessive sweating
- Trembling or shaking
- Difficulty speaking
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Rapid heartbeat
Some psychological symptoms may include:
- Intense worry about social situations
- Worrying about the event in advance
- Avoiding social situations or doing your best to blend in if you must attend
- Worrying about getting embarrassed in a social situation
- Worrying about getting noticed
- Drinking alcohol to cope with social situations
- Skipping school or work due to anxiety
Feeling anxious sometimes is normal. A person who suffers from a social phobia is constantly afraid of being humiliated in front of others or being judged by others. Symptoms of social anxiety may not occur in all situations, for example:
- Asking a question
- Job interviews
- Using public washroom
- Talking on the phone
- Eating in public
Social phobia symptoms do not occur in every situation. Anxiety can be limited or selective. Some symptoms may only appear when you talk with strangers or eat in front of others. In severe cases, you may experience symptoms in any social setting.
Also, check: Major Depression Disorder
What causes social anxiety disorder ?
Social phobia has no known cause. However, the majority of research suggests that genetics and environment are responsible. This disorder may also be influenced by negative experiences such as
- Family conflict
- Physical abuse
There may also be physical factors that contribute to this disorder such as serotonin imbalance. It is a chemical found in the brain that regulates mood.
In addition, these disorders may be related to an overactive amygdala (the brain structure that controls fear responses and feelings of anxiety).
Families can be affected by anxiety disorders. Scientists aren’t yet sure if these factors are genetic. If a child observes the habits of their anxiety-disordered parent, they may eventually develop an anxiety disorder of their own.
The environment where children grow up can also result in anxiety disorders.
Also, check: Side Effects of Overthinking
Diagnosing social anxiety disorder
Social anxiety disorder cannot be diagnosed with a medical test. A description of your symptoms will help your healthcare provider diagnose a social phobia. After examining certain behavioral patterns, they can also detect social phobia.
If your healthcare provider asks about your symptoms during your appointment, you should be prepared to provide a detailed description. The doctor will also ask you to describe the situations that caused the symptoms. The following are the social anxiety disorder criteria:
- A constant fear of humiliation or embarrassment in social situations
- Intense anxiety before social interactions
- Unreasonable fear of social situations
- Anxiety that effects daily life
Also, check another type of anxiety: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Social anxiety disorder treatment
There are several types of treatment for social anxiety disorder. The results of treatment vary from person to person. Some people require only one kind of treatment. In some cases, more than one type may be required.
You may need to seek mental health treatment from your healthcare provider. Social phobia symptoms may be treated with medication that’s prescribed by a primary care provider.
The following options are available for treating social anxiety:
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Therapists teach you how to recognize negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones, as well as how to relax and breathe.
This involves exposing yourself to social situations gradually rather than avoiding them.
This is a very helpful therapy in which you learn social skills and how to interact with the people around you. Group therapy may help you feel less alone by exposing you to others who have the same fears. In this activity, you will have the opportunity to practice your newly learned skills.
You can treat anxiety at home by:
Avoid foods that may increase anxiety such as soda, coffee and chocolate are stimulants.
Read: Stimulant Use Disorder
Make sure to get a minimum of eight hours of sleep per night. Sleep deprivation can affect anxiety and lead to social phobia symptoms.
However, they can make your symptoms better and make your daily life easier. You can expect your symptoms to improve after three months of taking medication.
Social anxiety disorder can be treated with Zoloft, Paxil and Effexor XR medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The dosage of your medication may be set at a low level to minimize side effects and gradually increase.
You may experience the following side effects:
- Insomnia (sleeplessness)
- Weight gain
- Upset stomach
Discuss your treatment options with your healthcare provider to determine whether it is right for you.
Recommended: Multiple Strategies To Control Overthinking
Overview of social anxiety disorder
The ADAA states that most people with social anxiety do not seek treatment until they have lived with the symptoms for at least 10 years.
People with social anxiety may turn to drugs and alcohol in order to cope with the anxiety caused by social interaction. Without treatment, social anxiety can lead to high risks such as
There is a positive outlook for those who suffer from social anxiety. Many people suffering from anxiety can cope with their anxiety through therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.
You don’t have to live with social phobia. You can feel calmer and more confident in social situations when you undergo psychotherapy and/or medication, but it may take weeks or months.