Anxiety disorders often occur among people who have had a difficult upbringing, history of abuse or some experience with trauma. Although anxiety can be caused by many factors including genetic vulnerability, trauma is a significant issue that can impact a person’s mental health and lead to the development of symptoms related to anxiety. There is often a link between trauma issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder and certain anxiety disorders such as social anxiety.
PTSD and social anxiety disorder are two illnesses that often co-occur in a single patient. There are many reasons why someone with PTSD might have issues with anxiety and particularly social anxiety. PTSD is known to cause problems with communication and unreasonable fear surrounding certain situations or people.
People who have had a traumatic experience may develop symptoms of social anxiety if they are not able to get effective treatment and recover from their trauma. Social anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder that can lead to fear in certain social situations or situations where you are expected to perform. People with trauma may experience triggers that make it difficult for them to function in certain social settings.
The Link Between Social Anxiety and PTSD
It is relatively common for people with PTSD to have anxiety and vice versa, particularly with social anxiety. Research has shown that the rates of diagnosed social anxiety disorder occur in about 14 to 46 people with PTSD with the number varying depending on the group being studied. The populations with the highest rates of both social anxiety disorder and PTSD are veterans who are seeking treatment for trauma.
In order to overcome social anxiety caused by trauma, it is important to understand why the two problems are so closely connected. Symptoms of PTSD may make people feel different than others and they begin to have problems relating and communicating. They may also have fears of coming into contact with trauma-related reminders in certain social situations.
People with PTSD also have high levels of shame, guilt and self-blame that can make it difficult for them to interact socially without feeling overwhelmed. They also frequently have feelings of depression which can lead to isolation and social withdrawal eventually resulting in social anxiety disorder. Without treatment symptoms of both PTSD and social anxiety can become problematic issues that continue to influence one another.
Getting Help for Both Problems
For someone with social anxiety that is related to issues of trauma, it is really important to treat both the symptoms of social anxiety disorder and resolve the trauma. Traumatic events can often become buried in a person’s subconscious because they shut out memories in order to survive their day to day life. Often discussing the details and feelings surrounding a traumatic experience with a professional therapist can be healing and lead to improvement.
When someone is able to address issues surrounding their trauma in a treatment environment they can start to work on relieving some of the feelings of guilt, shame and depression that may contribute to their social anxiety. Trauma can cause people to develop complex feelings that they don’t understand but therapy can help them sort through the issues that have come about as a result of their experiences. In therapy they can relieve some of the pressure and pain that they have been living with by avoiding dealing with or talking about trauma.
Even though treating PTSD may help reduce some aspects of social anxiety disorder, it is very important to get treatment for both problems at the same time. If someone has a co-occurring disorder they need to be able to address each mental illness so that they two problems don’t influence each other. A patient will need to discuss and work on reducing symptoms of both their social anxiety and their trauma-related issues.
Recovering from Trauma
When someone has a traumatic experience, especially at a young age it can have a lifetime impact on their psychological health. However, with specialized treatment it is possible to recover from trauma and lead a normal life again. People who haven’t worked out their issues of trauma may not even realize the many ways that it still affects them in their daily life.
Certain types of treatment programs can focus on trauma and healing from a negative experience. Methods like cognitive behavioral therapy and even more modern approaches like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing can be effective in recovering from the effects of trauma. Finding help from therapists or programs that specialize in trauma can be a good idea for those suffering from social anxiety issues related to trauma.
In order to start feeling more comfortable, people with social anxiety need to address the underlying issues that cause them to feel depression and anxious. Recovering from trauma can be an important step in the path towards better mental health.