What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety is also widely known as social phobia. To put it short, it is a long lasting and extremely overwhelming fear of social situations, being judged negatively, conversations and many more things.
People underestimate social anxiety's power to cut people off from the world. It can be totally terrifying, but it is commonly mistaken for the simple shyness- it is so much more than this. It is terribly distressing and can have a dramatic impact on your life.
This is a more common problem than you may think, it usually starts during your teenage years and gradually gets better for most people as they get older, although for the majority it does not go away on its own. Many people take medication to take away the symptoms of social anxiety, for most people this is beneficial but for some they have to try numerous medications before they find one that is effective.
Because of the nature of social anxiety disorder, it being a mental illness, many people do not seek help for it as they fear the doctors for one, being judged and not being believed.
Many people who suffer from social anxiety disorder are forced to avoid social situations completely from the overwhelming fears that surround it, therefore isolating them from everyone and everything. Because it is so hard to understand something that you do not go through yourself, it is hard for people to talk to others about the disorder as no one seems to understand and it is usually shrugged off as shyness.
If you dont have social anxiety disorder, you're probably thinking that everyone has worries and is shy sometimes, right? Yes, right, but someone with social anxiety disorder feels that way on a much larger scale, that multiplied by a million. But it isnt just in the moment of the situation, it is hours, days, weeks, months before it, during it and after it.
Social anxiety disorder affects your every day activities that many people take for granted, for example, walking into town on your own, walking through a crowd, paying for something in a shop or having a simple conversation with a teacher. It also affects your relationships, meals will be difficult, parties and just meeting someone in town for a bit. Work and school life will also be greatly affected, presentations will be a no go, interviews will be avoided, jobs may be declined due to frequent interaction with others and every day will be a struggle.
It can make people with social anxiety disorder feel so alone, like an outcast. Even if they are surrounded by people that they have known for years, they can still feel so alone and as if no one actually wants them there. They convince themselves that everyone hates them and that they annoying and a burden. One reason for this is because they literally dont know how to engage in conversation, are terrified to and fear embarrassment.
Social anxiety disorder can cause more problems further than the anxiety. Money problems due to avoiding getting a job is common, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts are sadly frequent due to the lack of hope for the future too, eating disorders can stem from it, depression and so many other things.
Symptoms Of Social Anxiety Disorder
- People who suffer with social anxiety disorder find it extremely difficult to do things with people watching as they may feel like they are being watched and judged all the time, for example, swimming with a lifeguard on watch, walking down the street and crossing at a zebra crossing, attending the gym ect.
- Avoiding or overly worrying about things like phone calls or answering the door to the post man is a big thing that people who have social anxiety disorder do.
- Eating infront of people is very hard for someone who suffers with it as they constantly feel like they are being watched and judged, even if they're not at all.
- Restlessness can be an obvious sign of anxiety, pacing around a room, shaking the leg, clicking a pen, tapping, ect, which is a very prominent symptom of anxiety.
- They avoid meeting strangers or making friends when others would normally do so, for example, in school.
- It is difficult to concentrate if you suffer from social anxiety disorder, for the most its because their brain is constantly occupied by thoughts that they dont want and whilst trying to get rid of those thoughts, they are not concentrating on what they should be doing, thus finding tasks like homework difficult.
- People who suffer from social anxiety disorder can be very irritable, especially if this is by people who do not understand their situation.
- They can constantly feel on edge and uneasy in any given situation.
- A sense of dread for the future is particuarly evident.
- Worring about embarrassing yourself, even if it is with someone you trust, for example, a significant other or family member, such as crying, blushing, messing up when you are speaking, sweating, falling over ect.
- There are many physical symptoms of anxiety including feeling sick, getting rashes over the skin, excessive sweating, shaking, tiredness, dizziness, shortness of breath, dry mouth, stomach ache, pins and needles, muscle aches, difficulty falling or staying asleep, panic attacks and heart palpitations.
Treatment For Social Anxiety Disorder
There are a few treatments available for social anxiety disorder ranging from therapy to medication, but usually if you have been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder you are advised to try psychological treatment before you are prescribed medication.
CBT therapy is often the first thing that the GP will offer. CBT therapy is one of the most effective treatments for social anxiety disorder but some people are unwilling to try it and it doesnt always work for everyone. CBT helps you to understand how your thoughts, problems, behaviour and feelings all affect each other.
Mindfulness and applied relaxation are alternative types of phychological treatments, which may not be as effective as CBT or medication but they are worth a try.
Anti-depressant medication which is usually a type of medication called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, such as serotonin or escitalopram
Think You Have Social Anxiety Disorder?
Please visit your doctor to get the help you deserve, no one should be scared of living their life.