Most of us feel shy and nervous while meeting new people for the first time or attending a social gathering, but that shyness is short-term as it wears out after a few minutes. But this is not the case with people who have social anxiety. A normal social gathering can trigger a socially anxious person to the extent that they might start trembling with fear or get dizzy and avoid all social events.
What is Social Anxiety Disorder? Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as Social Phobia, is a mental health condition where everyday interactions cause significant anxiety and self-consciousness because of the fear of being negatively judged or scrutinized by others. Feeling shy or nervous in social situations is normal. It becomes a matter of concern when you start feeling fearful and anxious to the extent that you avoid any form of socialization, which in turn disrupts your daily routine activities.
This disorder usually begins around early to mid-teen years. Although, it can sometimes be seen in younger children and adults too. Social interactions can cause physical symptoms like nausea, lightheadedness, rapid heart rate, trembling or shaking, difficulty in speaking, excessive sweating, muscle tension, breathlessness, feeling that your mind has gone blank.
Along with this, there are a few psychological and behavioral symptoms that a socially anxious person might experience like the constant fear of embarrassing or humiliating themselves in social situations, acute fear of being negatively judged by others, worrying for days or weeks before any social event, needing alcohol to face a social event, worrying that people will notice you are anxious, missing school or work to cope up with fear, avoidance of situations where you might be the center of attraction, etc.
It's normal to feel anxious sometimes but people experiencing social anxiety might even avoid casual social situations like going for an interview, asking a question, talking on the phone, eating in public, starting conversations, dating, making friends, returning items to a store, etc.
The exact cause of this disorder is unknown, but researchers believe that it can be a combination of many factors like:
- Genetics and Brain Structure: Anxiety disorders can run in the family. Physical abnormalities like serotonin imbalance or an overactive amygdala may cause this disorder.
- Environment: Overprotective or controlling parents can model anxious behavior in their children. People have new social circles or work demands, having an appearance or condition that draws attention might be at greater risk.
- Bad Experiences: Facing an unpleasant or embarrassing social situation, bullying, rejection, sexual or emotional abuse, family conflicts can also contribute to this disorder. This can result in low self-esteem, negative self-talk, hypersensitivity to criticism, isolation, substance abuse, suicide.
Social Anxiety Disorder can be a chronic mental health condition. Different types of treatment are available for this and differs from person to person. Some might require only therapy, some might require medications, and some might require a combination treatment approach (therapy and medications). There is no medical test for this, your healthcare provider will diagnose you from the description of your symptoms. Treatment will include various therapies like CBT, exposure therapy, group therapy. Apart from this, avoiding caffeine is considered beneficial as it decreases anxiety. Other beneficial coping strategies include breathing exercises, getting plenty of sleep, journaling, and avoiding unhealthy substance.
A WORD FROM SOCIALLY SOULED
Social Anxiety disorder, if left untreated, can control your daily activities like academics, work, relationships, and enjoyment of your life. Sometimes major depressive disorder and substance abuse problems occur alongside social anxiety disorder. Consulting a mental health professional at the earliest can help a lot in preventing as well as treating.