People with social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, have an intense fear of being judged, rejected, or negatively evaluated during a social situation or performance. People with the condition also become intensely anxious about displaying physical symptoms of their anxiety, such as blushing and stumbling over words.
Social anxiety sufferers are also profoundly concerned about people judging them to be dull, awkward, and stupid. All these issues add up to social anxiety sufferers going to great lengths to avoid performance and social situations. When they can’t avoid them, they will experience overwhelming stress and anxiety.
Intense physical symptoms can also accompany an episode in many social anxiety disorder sufferers. Their pulse may quicken, and they may experience nausea and sweating. If they are unable to avoid a feared situation, then an intense anxiety attack will follow. People with a social anxiety disorder are usually aware that their involuntary response to a situation is unreasonable and excessive. Still, many of them believe they have no power to stop them.
Approximately 15 million American adults have social anxiety disorder. This figure makes it the second most diagnosed anxiety disorder behind specific phobia. The average age for a person to start developing social anxiety disorder is during their teenage years. It is quite common for people who are diagnosed with social anxiety disorder to also report that they were extremely shy during their childhood, but the condition goes beyond shyness.
It can be very challenging to live a normal life when dealing with social anxiety disorder. People will often avoid job opportunities because the position may put them in trigger situations, and they may also avoid social situations. Naturally, an aversion to regular life can make it difficult to attend school, go to a job interview, forge new friendships, and meet romantic partners. By missing out on all that life has to offer, social anxiety sufferers are at risk of succumbing to depression or alcoholism.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder can manifest the following symptoms:
- Drug and alcohol abuse to cope with social situations
- Using technology for social interactions and avoiding face-to-face contact
- Difficulty in making new friends and keeping existing ones
- Feeling embarrassed or self-conscious around other people
- Feeling anxious when talking to and being around other people
Occasionally, a person with social anxiety disorder might only manifest symptoms in certain circumstances, such as a job interview. Other people may experience symptoms in a wide variety of situations where they feel they may be judged. Some of these scenarios include:
- Talking on the phone
- Writing, eating and drinking public
- Meeting new people
- Public speaking
- Using public restrooms
Causes of Social Anxiety Disorder
No one is clear about what can cause social anxiety disorder, but some scenarios have been singled out as likely culprits, including:
- Genetics – runs in the family
- Physical and sexual abuse and other traumatic events
- Limited social engagement leading to a lack of social skills
- Brain physiology – researchers believe that social anxiety sufferers may have differences in the areas of the brain regulating fear and anxiety
- Health conditions, especially ones that affect the appearance
- Family life – parents who are overprotective, overly anxious, or rejecting
Treatments for social anxiety disorder are readily available. Unfortunately, fewer than 5% of people will seek help in the year following the initial development of the disorder. Many sufferers report enduring the condition for up to ten years before seeking professional help.
With so many effective treatment methods available, there is no need to suffer with social anxiety disorder. Learn more about getting help for social anxiety by reading more here: Anxiety Treatment