Sydney is a contributing health writer and editor who enjoys shedding light on health topics, making information available to anyone who wants it, and ending stigmas or lack of access to care and treatment.
February 5, 2021
Social anxiety disorder is a chronic fear of social interaction. According to the ADAA, “The defining feature of social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation.”
This disorder can cause extreme anxiety, nervousness, thoughts of feeling judged, embarrassment, and more. A study showed that over 7% of Americans struggle with social anxiety disorder, and it’s known to be more prevalent in adult women.
There are several physical, emotional, and mental symptoms that come from social anxiety disorder (SAD). While it’s normal to feel nervous in certain social situations, SAD takes things a step further by making daily tasks that involve the public completely debilitating.
It most often starts in the teen years but can also occur in children and adults. Feeling uncomfortable in public doesn’t necessarily mean you have social anxiety disorder. Once it starts to interfere with your work, school, and relationships, it might be time to talk with a doctor.
It’s also seen that small children experiencing social anxiety tend to cry more often. They also refuse to talk to strangers or even loved ones. These things can be normal for kids to do, but if it becomes excessive, they might have, or be forming, social anxiety disorder.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it could mean you’re suffering from social anxiety disorder.
There are forms of nervousness that are not social anxiety disorder.
For example, many children, teenagers, and adults get performance anxiety from time to time. If you have to give a big speech in front of your school or you have an important presentation in front of your boss and co-workers, you might feel anxious. While similar, this isn’t social anxiety disorder if it doesn’t carry out into most other social situations.
Just like many other health conditions, there may be a root cause of social anxiety. Therapists can help you figure out what the root cause of the issue may be, and even help you find a way to live comfortably with social anxiety disorder.
There are three common causes for social anxiety disorder:
Social anxiety disorder may be a learned behavior from childhood. If parents showed signs of anxiety to their children, or a child felt extreme embarrassment after a social interaction, it could stem from there.
The amygdala is a crucial part of our brain that is responsible for our fear response, also known as “fight or flight.” When we’re feeling anxious, the switch for fight or flight is in the “on” position, even though you might not be in real danger. Your brain and body react as if you are, and if your amygdala is overactive, you may experience social anxiety disorder.
People struggling with this mental health condition often avoid certain situations. Some of the things you might avoid if you have social anxiety disorder are:
Many people will visit their doctor to talk with them about what they’re experiencing. Your doctor will want to rule out anything else that might be causing the symptoms you’re experiencing.
They’ll likely do the following:
After this, there are a few things that might happen. Your doctor may prescribe you an anti-anxiety medication. They also might suggest you see a talk therapist to help discover what the underlying issue may be. A combination of both is recommended by most medical professionals.
If you have any reservations about certain medications, please speak with your doctor. Ask about side effects and interactions with any supplements or other medications you may be taking.
Talk therapy is a great tool and therapists have access to several things that can make living with SAD much easier. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, has been shown to work the best for anxiety disorders like this. CBT focuses on controlling the symptoms, challenging the negative thoughts, and facing your fears.
When it comes to anxiety, overcoming it will likely feel uncomfortable at first. Facing the social situation head-on is the best way to overcome and take back control. People struggling with social anxiety disorder can see normal interactions as debilitating, and facing these situations is much easier said than done. There are a few things that you can do to help yourself or a loved one overcome social anxiety disorder.
When we experience anxiety, it can be hard to know what’s true and what’s not. Anxiety can lie to us, and have us thinking things are true when they’re not. If you’re in a social situation and think that people are judging you, challenge that thought.
Tell yourself that everyone is wrapped up in their own world. And remember we tend to be our own harshest critics.
Working alongside your therapist, you’ll slowly but surely be able to face your fears. This doesn’t mean you have to go to a huge party and interact with everyone you see. Facing your fears might start small, like inviting two friends over for dinner. After that, your therapist might suggest going in public to grab a sweet treat with your friends. Eventually, you’ll be able to enjoy daily life without worry about being in public and having social interactions.
As with all medical questions, it’s best to talk to a doctor. Virtual appointments are a great option for those suffering from social anxiety because they enable you to get treatment without leaving the house, which can be a barrier for many.
EverydayDr is proud to be partnered with award winning telehealth company PlushCare. Plushcare provides people like you access to world-class online doctors and virtual therapists. Whether you’re looking for medication, therapy, a combination, or aren’t sure where to start, PlushCare’s medical professionals can help you.
Book an appointment with a top doctor at PlushCare for social anxiety treatment by clicking here.
Book and appointment with a licensed therapist for social anxiety treatment by clicking here.
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