“Researchers estimate that social anxiety disorder affects roughly 5.3 million people in the United States.”
Have you felt socially anxious before giving a speech or during the period of a competitive exam? Of course, it is normal to feel so in such situations, but what if that feeling of social anxiety occurs more frequently in your daily routine and starts impacting your academics, work and even relationships. For example, feeling excessive fear of a situation, worry about embarrassment and humiliation or concern about offending someone can be signs of social anxiety.
What is Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia?
Social anxiety disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by an intense and continuous feeling of being negatively judged by others. In other words, social anxiety disorder leads to the avoidance of all social interactions and situations to avoid being judged or watched by others.
Social anxiety disorder is also commonly termed social phobia, making life hard if one does not get the necessary medical treatment. People with social phobia usually try to avoid everyday social interactions that cause fear, anxiety, social consciousness and embarrassment. However, suppose one notices that signs of social anxiety are creating problems in doing daily life tasks. In that case, it is time to consult a mental health professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist.
What Are the Signs of Social Anxiety Disorder?
The symptoms of social anxiety disorder can vary among patients. For example, an individual might have social anxiety related to a particular one or two things like public speaking or giving exams. In contrast, some may experience anxiety in every social situation. At what level do people experience social anxiety depends upon their personality traits and the life experiences that they have had.
Some of the common signs of social anxiety disorder are as follows:-
- Avoiding social situations that can trigger anxiety
- Intense fear of being judged by other
- Feeling self-conscious and uncomfortable while being watched by others
- Fear of interacting or talking with strangers
- Avoiding all the possibilities of making eye contact while talking
- Being hesitant to start a conversation
- Facing difficulty in speaking properly
- Having low self-esteem and doing a negative self-talk
- Experiencing a feeling of panic or panic attacks
- Anxiety is the anticipation of a situation or event that might not even occur
- Expecting worse possible circumstances from a negative experience
- a rigid body posture and a soft voice during social interactions
- feeling very self-conscious, embarrassed, or awkward in front of others
An anxiety disorder may also trigger physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat, nausea, dizziness, excessive sweating, trembling and shaking. Experiencing such symptoms can have an impact on day to day activity and significantly lower the quality of life for an individual. Getting the proper medical treatment in time can help avert adverse health complications like substance abuse and suicidal tendencies.
Who is Most Likely to Get Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety disorder is more than just shyness; it is a mental health condition that deteriorates the quality of life of a person. Several factors can lead to social anxiety disorder in an individual.
It is said that mental health disorders often run in the family history. Social phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that can occur due to genetic linkage. A person can become more likely to get social anxiety disorder if one family member has already been diagnosed with such a relatable illness.
Change in Brain Structure
Researchers have studied the human brain to know what leads to mental health disorders like social phobia. It was observed that people who have social anxiety disorder had an overactive amygdala by having an increased blood flow. Amygdala is a part of the limbic system in the brain and plays a significant role in controlling the fear response. Having a heightened fear response increases anxiety during social situations.
Environmental influence: Social anxiety disorder can also occur due to environmental factors like experiencing an unpleasant or embarrassing situation. People who face teasing, bullying, and humiliation are more likely to develop a social anxiety disorder. A child can learn socially anxious behavior if parents model such behavior or are too controlling of their children.
The occurrence of certain life events that have been highly traumatizing significantly contributes to social anxiety disorder. Life events like the loss of a loved one, abuse, assault, accident, severe disease and even relationship conflicts can trigger the symptoms of depression, anxiety and social phobia. One should consult a mental health professional to get effective treatment for such mental health complications.
Parents who inhibit negative or poor parenting styles increase the incidence rate of a child’s psychological problems. Parents who are overly concerned for their child and interfere too much in their child’s life might risk developing a social anxiety disorder. It is advised to not be too hard on children and create an atmosphere where they can freely express their thoughts and feelings by openly communicating.
Certain personality traits can make a person more likely to develop a social anxiety disorder. Personality traits like shyness, low self-esteem and confidence, timidness, and being easily flustered can put a person at risk to create a social anxiety disorder.
Developing social phobia can lead to numerous difficulties in life. Therefore, it is of extreme importance to consult a mental health professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist to get treated for social anxiety disorder. The line of treatment for such an illness can range from medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy or going to support groups. It is crucial to have the emotional support of close family members and friends in treating any type of mental health disorder.