Social anxiety disorder is characterized by intense fear and worry when around other people. This condition is sometimes referred to as social phobia. The overbearing fear that someone with social anxiety disorder will experience in social situations may be enough for them to even experience full blown panic attacks. People who suffer from this mental illness are overly concerned with being judged and are often very self-conscious and hard on themselves.
Constant worry thoughts about their appearance, the way they are speaking to others, the way they walk, how other people are looking at them, constantly analyzing and judging other people’s body language and facial expressions is a normal occurrence for someone suffering from this condition. Even something as simple as going to the drive through at a fast food restaurant can be a very challenging endeavor.
Someone with social anxiety disorder may go out of their way to avoid people as they may see them as the problem. Such isolation may cause them to feel lonely, depressed, insecure, and overall less content with their life.
Depending on the individual’s genetic makeup, this may open up the door for them to develop additional disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or specific phobias such as the fear of blushing or the fear of beautiful women, among many others.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder
Someone suffering from social anxiety disorder will often experience a fight or flight response when around other people. Being in or around large crowds may be virtually impossible for them as they will experience an overwhelming influx of dread and vulnerability. In such a situation, they may truly feel and react as if they were in mortal danger, even when there is absolutely no danger in sight. Their inability to realize this is a large reason as to why they experience the amount of anxiety they do.
Even though they are very fearful of other people judging them, they themselves are often very judgmental towards themselves, as well as others. They may experience some narcissistic traits as well, such as feeling as though everyone is looking at them or that everyone is concerned with they way they behave or speak even though this is likely the antithesis of the truth.
People with social anxiety disorder may identify themselves as being loners and may deeply struggle with forming and maintaining healthy relationships with others as they are constantly concerned with being judged by them. They may rarely leave the house as they may perceive such an environment to be a “safe space” for them where anxiety is minimal. Though this may help them reduce a lot of their anxiety, it may also help them to reinforce their irrational fear of people as well.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of social anxiety disorder:
Intense anxiety when around other people
Anxiety when thinking of being around other people
Overly concerned with being judged
Very judgmental of themselves and others
Avoiding places where people gather
Struggle with maintaining healthy relationships
Deep fear of being rejected or humiliated
Excessive sweating and shaking
Feeling nauseous or lightheaded
Causes of Social Anxiety Disorder
There is no known cause of social anxiety disorder. However, genetics and one’s environment may play significant factors in the development of this condition. For instance, if someone has a family history of mental illness, especially with anxiety disorders or specific phobias, then they will have an increased chance of developing social anxiety disorder. This is likely due to them also having an increased chance of being genetically predisposed to developing mental illness.
Besides genetics, someone may develop social anxiety disorder due to them experiencing a very traumatic event where they were publicly humiliated or rejected by someone or by a group of people. Such a traumatic event may be more than enough for someone to develop social anxiety disorder insofar as they have the genetics to do so.
There is no definitive answer as to why some people develop social anxiety disorder and why others don’t. Be that as it may, there is an overwhelming consensus among most mental health professionals that both genetics and environmental factors play crucial roles in the development of any given mental disorder.
Taking a closer look at these two different parameters may shed some light as to why you have or don’t have some of the symptoms of social anxiety disorder. It may also be advantageous to talk to your doctor about such a matter as well.
Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment
Someone suffering with social anxiety disorder may greatly benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This form of therapy is often seen as the gold standard of treatments for people suffering from anxiety disorders. CBT works by helping the patient to change their thinking patters by becoming more aware of the way they currently think about their fears. The therapist will help coach the patient by providing them with more productive ways of thinking, as well as introducing coping skills to them.
Exposure therapy may also be helpful for treating this disorder as it can be a way to desensitize them from their irrational fear of people. This form of treatment is done by having the patient put themselves out there in anxiety provoking situations to help them overcome their intense fear. Such a form of treatment should only be implemented by a very experienced and adept therapist.
Besides psychotherapy, someone suffering from this disorder may also greatly benefit by taking an anti-depressant like Sertraline and/or an anti-anxiety medication like Xanax. These drugs can help to minimize the amount of fear that someone with social anxiety disorder can expect to experience. However, merely taking medication alone without any sort of therapy may not be very effective at improving this condition in the long run. So, this will be something that you will want to first discuss with your doctor.
If you think you may have social anxiety disorder or if you are suffering from some of the symptoms outlined in this article, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated. Upon seeing your doctor, he may refer you to see a mental health specialist such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist for further treatment.