Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety (also called social phobia) is a disorder that prevents people from enjoying and taking part in social situations. People with this disorder usually report they are worried that they’ll say something wrong or embarrass themselves in social situations.
Most patients cite their social anxiety starting around the age of 13, though many patients may deviate from this statistic. The disorder is often either learned behavior from a parent or is triggered by a trauma, so the age that patients develop social anxiety is generally associated with age they were when the trauma occurred.
What Triggers Social Anxiety?
Unfortunately, experts don’t know the exact causes of social anxiety disorder — though, they do have a few ideas on what triggers it. One thing most researchers agree on is that most patients that suffer from social anxiety have two things in common:
- They have a family history of social anxiety
- Their disorders were triggered by outside factors
Many sufferers of social anxiety have also experienced some type of trauma (often in early childhood), such as bullying, family issues, and sexual abuse. Though, not all patients cite these traumas in their pasts.
Patients suffering from social anxiety also often suffer from other mental illnesses, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and generalized anxiety. Researchers believe that it may have something to do with the levels of serotonin in their brains.
Researchers also agree that children develop such disorders from watching their parents suffer from similar conditions. Many argue as to whether or not these behaviors are completely learned — or if they’re inherited through DNA.
Social Anxiety Symptoms
Social anxiety can often manifest itself differently from patient to patient. Yet, there are a few common symptoms that most patients have in common. Some of the most prominent symptoms of social anxiety include:
- Difficulty speaking
- Fear of being called attention to
- Feeling butterflies
- Feeling irrationally warm or cold
- Inability to speak or think around others
- Increased heart rate
Other symptoms are often situational or pertain directly to the individual patient’s social phobia. Such symptoms of social anxiety include:
- Avoiding activities that could result in any attention
- Avoiding meeting new people
- Avoiding social situations
- Canceling plans (work or social) because you’re too stressed to go out
- Canceling work or social engagements when you find out there will be people you don’t know attending
- Drinking alcohol, using drugs, or other avoidance behaviors
- Obsessing about future social events
- Obsessing that others are judging you
- Refusing to raise your hand or ask a question in front of a group of people
- Worrying that others might not ‘like’ you or notice your worry
- Worrying that others are constantly staring at you (especially while walking or eating)
- Worrying about being ‘called out’ in social situations or classes
Social Anxiety Diagnosis
Luckily, social anxiety is relatively easy to diagnose. If you’re constantly worrying about social events or obsessing over meeting new people, you probably suffer from this disorder. You can also probably pinpoint when that anxiety started — and any traumatic events that led to its genesis.
To get a professional diagnosis of social anxiety disorder, you’ll need to make an appointment with an online therapist. On your intake form and during your appointment, your therapist will probably ask pointed questions about your symptoms. Just some of the questions may include:
- How often do you leave the house?
- Do you feel nervous or anxious regularly before social situations?
- How many social engagements have you canceled in the past month?
- How many new people do you actively try to meet during an event?
- Do you ever feel butterflies in your stomach before and/or during social events?
- Do your hands ever feel clammy during social events?
- How many days have you called out sick from work because you were too nervous to go in?
- Do you think that your feelings are founded or unreasonable?
- Does your anxiety lead to a lower quality of life?
Social Anxiety Treatments
Luckily, there are a wide variety of social anxiety treatments; you definitely don’t need to fear this disorder for the rest of your life. Just some of the most common treatments include:
- Lifestyle changes
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Exposure therapy
- Group therapy
- Social anxiety medication
Many cases of social anxiety disorder can be helped through lifestyle changes. Reducing the use of stimulants (such as caffeine) can be extremely helpful; increasing exercise has also been known to help.
Cognitive Based Therapy
Cognitive based therapy (CBT) is used to help patients employ mindfulness techniques to assist in behavioral and thought pattern changes. The therapist generally asks the patients about a stressful situation and then tries to debunk preconceived notions the patient might have about the situation.
Exposure therapy encourages patients to force themselves into fearful situations (related to the phobia) to prove that such situations aren’t so scary. Some therapists use situation simulations before sending them into real-life social environments.
Group therapy shows patients they’re not alone when it comes to social anxiety. Many patients assume that they’re the only ones with these fears and worries. What they fail to acknowledge is that these fears are super common with nearly everyone. Listening to others’ stories helps them face their own fears.
For some patients, the thought of heading into a social situation is just too debilitating. Doctors may recommend that these patients make an appointment with a psychiatrist to get a prescription for anti-anxiety medication or an antidepressant. Both have been known to work well with social anxiety sufferers.
Some patients also state that CBD oil works well with such anxiety.
When it comes to anxiety, you don’t want to wait to get treatment. Most patients don’t seek treatment until 10-to-11 years after first noticing their symptoms!
The longer you wait, the harder it can be to get help — and many patients with social anxiety find such disorders can lead to more serious disorders, such as serious depression and even suicidal thoughts and behaviors.