How Do People Experience Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety disorder or social phobia is the third largest mental health problem today. Social anxiety is the fear of social situations primarily interactions with other people. The disorder can cause impairment in most areas of an individual’s life as the fear and anxiety is overwhelming. Social anxiety typically does not go away on its own but there is treatment available.
Individuals with social anxiety disorder are often seen as withdrawn, introverted, and shy. They want to make friends and to be involved with others; however, the anxiety prevents this from occurring. Fear of being judged or ridiculed also holds them back.
Individuals with social anxiety experience distress typically in these situations.
- Being the center of attention
- Formal settings
- Having to speak in front of large groups
- Being introduced to others
- Situations where one can be easily embarrassed
- Meeting people in positions of authority
Social anxiety disorder includes a host of symptoms including rapid heartbeat, what if thoughts, shaking, fear, and excessive sweating. Many know that the fear and anxiety are irrational; however, are unable to control the symptoms.
Substance use disorders are common with social anxiety disorder as many individuals find relief from the anxious symptoms through self-medication. If an individual has difficulty attending group functions, they may drink alcohol prior to the event to calm themselves. Some individuals will go to great lengths to avoid social situations, which can have adverse effects. They may start to believe that the only way to get through an event is to be medicated either with drugs or alcohol. Social anxiety disorder can create all-or-nothing scenarios where it is better to do nothing then to feel anxious. This disorder is often referred to as the “illness of lost opportunities” because many would rather avoid life to accommodate the disorder.
Social anxiety disorder should be diagnosed by a mental health professional as many of the symptoms can be found in other disorders. There is treatment available and the most effective treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy. Group therapy can also benefit the individual as they can work on their anxious feelings while in the safety of a group setting. With therapy, the individual can learn to manage the anxiety symptoms and learn over time to include themselves in social situations.