It’s normal to feel nervous in some social situations, like going on a date or giving a presentation. Such events may cause that feeling of butterflies in your stomach.
But in social anxiety disorders (Social phobia), everyday interactions cause significant anxiety, fear, self-consciousness, and embarrassment because you fear being scrutinized by others.
In a social anxiety disorder, fear and anxiety lead to avoidance that can disrupt your life, and severe stress can affect your daily routine.
Social anxiety disorder is a chronic mental health condition. However, learning coping skills in psychotherapy and taking medications can help you gain confidence and improve your capability to interact with others.
Facts On Social Anxiety
People with a social anxiety disorder are disproportionately nervous in social situations, and its symptoms can include abdominal discomfort, lightheadedness, and a ‘negative loop’ of feeling anxious about any anxious feelings. Panic attacks may sometime occur.
Social anxiety disorder is more common in females than males, and treatment can include psychotherapy and medication.
Several factors can increase the risk of developing a social anxiety disorder. Such factors include:
- Family history: you’re more likely to develop social anxiety disorder if your ancestors or biological parents or siblings have the condition.
- Negative experiences: People or children, who experience teasing, bullying, rejection, ridicule or humiliation may be more prone to social anxiety disorder. Also, other negative events in life, such as family conflict, or abuse, may be connected with social anxiety disorder.
- Temperament: people or children who are shy, timid, withdrawn or restrained when meeting new people or facing new situations, may be at greater risk.
- New social or official demands: social anxiety disorder symptoms typically start in the teenage years, but meeting different people, giving a speech in public or making an important work presentation may trigger symptoms.
- Similarly, having an appearance or condition that draws attention, may trigger a social anxiety disorder in some people
- Facial disfigurement, stuttering or tremors due to Parkinson’s disease can increase feelings of self-consciousness and may trigger a social anxiety disorder in some people.
If left untreated, a social anxiety disorder can ruin your life and can interfere with work, school, relationships or enjoyment of life. Social anxiety disorder can result in the following complications:
- Hypersensitivity to criticism
- Poor social skills
- Low self-esteem
- Trouble being assertive
- Negative self-talk
- Isolation and difficult social relationships
- Low academic and employment achievement
- Substance abuse, and drinking too much alcohol
- Suicide thought or suicide attempts
Other anxiety disorders, particularly major depressive disorder and substance abuse problems, often occur with social anxiety disorder.
Prevention Of Social Anxiety Disorder
There’s no way to predict what will cause someone to develop an anxiety disorder, but there are certain steps you can take to reduce the impact of symptoms when you feel anxious:
- Get help early, since anxiety, like many other mental health conditions, can be harder to treat if you delay.
- Keep a journal, and keep track of your personal life. That can help you and your mental health professional identify what’s causing you stress and what seems to help you feel better.
- Rank the issues in your life, and reduce anxiety by carefully managing your time and energy. Ensure to spend time doing things you enjoy.
- Avoid unhealthy substance use, like alcohol and even caffeine or nicotine. Their use can cause or worsen anxiety, and if you’re addicted to any of these substances already, quitting can make you anxious. See your doctor or find a treatment program or support group to help you if you can’t quit on your own.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most common medications prescribed for people with episodes of a social anxiety attack.
SSRIs are thought to be the safest and most effective treatment for persistent symptoms, however, there are instances of negative side effects. Examples of SSRIs may include:
- paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR)
- sertraline (Zoloft)
- fluvoxamine (Luvox, Luvox CR)
- fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem)
Possible side effects may include:
- sexual dysfunction
Related Conditions To Social Anxiety Disorder
There are many conditions that share similarities with a social anxiety disorder, and may often be diagnosed along with SAD. Such related conditions include:
- Selective mutism, which involves a failure to speak in specific social situations (e.g., at school). Children with selective mutism will fail to speak at school but may talk with their family at home.
- Childhood-Onset Fluency Disorder (Stuttering) is listed as a communication disorder but can also cause anxiety about speaking in public.
- Avoidant personality disorder, which is a disorder that involves the same symptoms as social anxiety disorder but to a stronger degree with more avoidance.
- Panic disorder: this involves unexpected panic attacks that appear to come out of nowhere.
- Agoraphobia refers to a fear of having a panic attack in a place from which it would be hard to escape. Agoraphobia is diagnosed alongside panic disorder and people with a social anxiety disorder may also be diagnosed with panic disorder and agoraphobia. However, these are separate conditions.
- Autism spectrum disorder, which involves impairment in social communication across a range of context. Children who have high-functioning autism may also have a social anxiety disorder.