How to deal with social anxiety?
Social anxiety disorder is a mental problem characterized by the fear of being judged or watched by others in social gatherings or situations. It is also known as social phobia.
Anxiety is a fear that arises during the anticipation of an event, and a phobia is an irrational fear from a specific situation or object. According to the National Institute of Mental report, about 12.1 per cent of people in the USA experience the symptoms of social anxiety at some point in their lifetime. It is more common among females than in males.
However, Social phobia is a treatable cause. Consulting a therapist or medication can help you to overcome their symptoms. In this blog, we provide you with an overview of social anxiety, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
Overview of social anxiety?
Social anxiety, also called social phobia, is a kind of anxiety disorder that causes extreme worry in social gatherings or situations. People who have this kind of anxiety disorder experience difficulties in talking to people, attending social meetings, or meeting new people. They may fear being scrutinized or judged by others. They understand that their worry is unreasonable and irrational but feel powerless to overcome the fear.
Although some anxiety is natural in social gatherings, such as going on a date or giving a presentation or speech, social anxiety occurs when your anxiety becomes intense and starts affecting your personal life and work and last for at least six months.
People who have this mental condition may feel anxious or worried, such as trembling or blushing, or think they are unintelligent or awkward. Some people also have intense physical symptoms, such as feeling sick, increased heart rate, or sweating.
Social anxiety is not as same as shyness. Shyness is short-term and does not disrupt your life. But on the other hand, social phobia is debilitating and persistent. It may affect your ability to work, develop close relationships with someone, or attend school.
People with these mental conditions do not seek the treatment they believe is just a part of their personality. They may seek help for this issue.
How to recognize social anxiety?
Social anxiety has many effects on your mind and body, causing behavioural, emotional, and physical symptoms. These symptoms may occur at specific social gatherings and may include:
- nausea and blushing
- excessive sweating
- trembling or shaking
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- difficulty speaking
- rapid heart rate
Some psychological symptoms may include:
- worrying for days before an event
- worrying intensely about social situations
- worrying about embarrassing yourself in a social situation
- needing alcohol to face a social situation
- worrying that other people will notice you are nervous
It is normal to feel anxious sometimes. However, when you suffer from this condition, you may constantly fear being judged by others or being humiliated in front of them. You may avoid social gatherings, including:
- job interviews
- using public restrooms
- asking a question
- shopping or eating in public
- talking on the phone
Signs of social anxiety may also occur in every situation. You may also have selective anxiety. For instance, symptoms may only happen when you are talking to strangers or eating in front of others. These symptoms may occur in all social situations if you have a severe case.
What causes social anxiety?
The exact reason for social anxiety is unknown. However, some research suggests that it may cause due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some negative experiences also contribute to this disorder, such as family conflict, bullying, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse.
Some physical abnormalities such as an imbalance in serotonin level may trigger this mental condition. Serotonin is a natural chemical in the brain that helps to regulate mood. An overactive amygdala may also cause these conditions.
The problem of anxiety can be genetic, which means it can run in families. However, some researchers are not sure if they are actually connected to genetic factors. For instance, a child may develop anxiety by learning the behaviour of one of its parents or family member who has the same condition.
Children may also develop social anxiety as a result of being raised in overprotective and controlled environments. Most of the symptoms of this condition start early in life, during an individual’s teenage or adolescence years, but it can affect people of all ages. This condition is more common in women than men.
How to diagnose social anxiety?
An expert may ask questions about your medical history and may recommend some physical tests to check out any physical causes of the symptoms. They may also refer a mental health professional.
A professional will ask several questions about your symptoms, including when they occur, how often they occur, or when they start appearing. They also use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders, fifth edition, to diagnose your mental conditions, including social anxiety or phobia.
The diagnosis criteria may include:
- avoiding situations that may cause the feeling of anxiety
- having a persistent worry about one or more social gatherings that may involve embarrassment from others
- Experiencing the symptoms that persist for six months or more and cause significant distress or impair your social life or other vital areas.
Treatment of social anxiety
Several medical and non-medical treatments are available that can help to manage your symptoms, overcome anxiety, and gain confidence. Without a proper cure, social anxiety may persist throughout life as it may feel worse or better at certain times.
Your health care professional may recommend treatments with combination psychotherapy.
Behavioural therapy or talking therapy may help you to understand your experiences and develop effective coping methods. There are several types of behavioural therapy:
- CBT or family therapy
- interpersonal or psychodynamic therapy
The most common non-medication treatment of social anxiety is CBT. It aims to help you recognize and change the negative beliefs and thoughts about a social situation. It also aims to change your behaviour to problems that may trigger your anxiety.
There is a wide range of medications available that can help you manage social phobia symptoms. The three common types of drugs are:
- Antianxiety medications: They act quickly to reduce the symptoms of social phobia and anxiety. But professionals usually recommend it for a short duration, as they can create dependence.
- Antidepressants: SSRIs, which people use as antidepressants, can also help reduce this condition’s symptoms. It may take several days to start effecting.
- Beta-blockers: They help block the physical effects of anxiety, including tremors, rapid heartbeat, and sweating. They block the stimulating effects of adrenaline.
According to a survey, about 36% of adults with social anxiety or phobia do not consult their doctor until they have symptoms for at least ten years or more. An individual suffering from this condition may rely on alcohol or drugs to cope with anxiety triggered by social situations. If this anxiety disorder is left untreated, it may lead to other high-risk behaviours.
However, effective interventions such as talking therapies and medications can efficiently improve the symptoms and their quality of life.