Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
Social anxiety disorder is s type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by an intense fear of social situations. It is also known as social phobia. Many people have some type of social anxiety or shyness however social anxiety disorder is much more extreme than that. The symptoms of social anxiety disorder are often intense and debilitating having an impact on one's day-to-day functioning. This anxiety disorder includes both mental health symptoms as well as physical symptoms.
What are some causes of social anxiety?
Anxiety is the body's natural response to stress. It is a feeling of worry, fear and uncertainty that results from a perceived threat. This threat can be anything from an exam, a work presentation, a relationship or the thought of death. This is a very normal experience in times of extreme stress. It is a part of the body's fight-or-flight response. This fight-or-flight response is an integral part of a human's functioning. It is activated whenever there is perceived danger allowing a human to escape and avoid death. In this situation, it is the presence of other people and social interactions that activate this response in the body causing anxious feelings and anxiety.
Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, can develop for many different reasons. It is often associated with fear or worries about what other people will think of you. Those who suffer can be self-conscious or have low self-esteem. They try and avoid all situations that will trigger this feeling of being rejected.
Where this feeling comes from varies between each person. It can develop from previous experience of being ridiculed in a social setting or from being trained to believe that social situations are scary. It can also be the result of a lack of social skills and the feeling of not knowing how to be in situations with other people.
Each person will have a different reason for the development of this social phobia even though the symptoms and debilitating fear associated with this phobia are similar amongst those who suffer from it. Part of treatment and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is making connections between the underlying cause of the social phobia as well as decreasing the intensity of the symptoms associated with the disorder such as anxiety, blushing etc.
Are there different types of social anxiety?
Social anxiety disorder is an umbrella term that describes people who suffer extreme anxiety in social situations. This can lead to declining opportunities and avoiding situations that involve people. This can make it extremely challenging for them to function. One of the most important things with this disorder is to differentiate it between someone who has some mild social anxiety or someone who is shy. These are normal human emotions and are not the same as a social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorder is diagnosed when the symptoms associated with social anxiety are debilitating enough that they prevent someone from functioning daily or normally living their lives.
What are the symptoms of social anxiety?
People who suffer from a social phobia are generally very anxious people. There are many different reasons why social situations are triggering for people with social anxiety. One of them includes the fear of being evaluated by other people. This could include being judged or rejected for various reasons. There is often a fear of how they will appear in social situations or of what other people will think of them. This leads to an avoidance of social situations whenever possible.
When the social situation cannot be avoided, it causes significant distress to the individual's mental health both leading up to the social event and when experiencing the social event. The mental health impacts of social anxiety can be distressing but there are also physical symptoms that result from the overwhelming anxiety. These symptoms include increased heart rate, shyness, being self-conscious, negative thoughts, low self-esteem, blushing, inability to make eye contact, restlessness, irritability, and much more. It can also lead to panic attacks or anxiety attacks. These symptoms can be triggered by various social interactions including public speaking, the presence of other people or many people. It is diagnosed based on the criteria laid out in the DSM-5 or DSM-IV.
What can you do to help with social anxiety?
There are many different effective treatments for this condition and the anxiety symptoms go along with it.
1. Health professional:
Getting the support of a mental health professional can be extremely beneficial in socially-anxious people or those with an actual social phobia. Cognitive therapy of various kinds can help to decrease the impacts of anxiety-provoking and anxiety-inducing situations. It can also help combat any crossover symptoms from other disorders such as obsessive-compulsive thoughts. It can also help to improve self-consciousness, shyness and social skills, making it easier to be in social situations and meet new people Some examples of services that might help those with social phobias and/or social anxieties include support groups, exposure therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), and role-playing.
2. Treat any co-occurring disorders
Seek treatment for health conditions or mental health conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, other phobias, anxiety and anxious thoughts, depression and negative thoughts as well as panic attacks and panic disorder. These other anxiety disorders and mental illnesses can increase the symptoms associated with social anxiety, making them more intense and harder to treat.
3. Pharmaceutical medications
Beta-blockers, anti-anxiety medications, and antidepressants have all been shown to potentially have some impact on the symptoms associated with a social anxiety disorder. They have been shown to be most effective when they are used in conjunction with cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). This combination is also effective in treating other mental disorders and anxiety disorders including panic disorder. Medications such as antidepressants should always be taken with the advice of a health professional as they can have severe and unwanted side effects either short term or long-term.
4. Natural Remedies
There are various herbal products and botanicals that have been shown to help decrease the symptoms associated with anxiety disorders. These include anti-anxiety, antidepressant and adaptogen plants such as Passionflower, which acts on the central nervous system, binding to the GABA receptors that relax the body. This reminds the body to slow down and decreases stress allowing the body and mind to relax. Passionflower is a very gentle flower that not only helps promote relaxation, but it helps to revitalize and restore the body
Stress management: Try to decrease stress and avoid stressors, especially in stressor-related anxiety disorders like social phobias. Build on self-confidence - this can include therapy that investigates the root cause of the anxiety, as well as finds ways to cope with anxiety such as self-talk.
Eat foods that nourish the nervous system- focus on a diet high in fruits and vegetables, as well as good fats (avocado, nuts and seeds, olive oil) and protein to nourish the body and nervous system. This can make it more resilient to triggers and anxiety attacks.
Focus on incorporating things that you love into your daily life. Get a good night’s sleep to try and help reset the nervous system and give it a chance to recover from the stress of the day. And lastly, create a good support system - find people that you can talk to when things get challenging. Many people feel alone in their anxiety disorder and mental disorders and this can exacerbate the symptoms of it.
How long does social anxiety last for?
The length of time that social anxiety disorder lasts depends on many different risk factors that each person is experiencing. The symptoms will often be limited to the time before or after social events or interactions. If the condition gets severe enough, the anxiety and anxious thoughts can start to occur on a regular basis, to even just the threat of having to endure a social interaction ever.
Treatment may be helpful in decreasing the progression from isolated anxiety to anxiety that is happening on a daily basis and can decrease the intensity of the social phobia.
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