Social Anxiety Symptoms and Treatment
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is sometimes referred to as a social phobia.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Social phobia is a strong fear of being judged by others and of being embarrassed.”
People who suffer from this disorder may worry and panic about minor social encounters, like going grocery shopping alone or having to ask a waiter a question at a restaurant. For bigger social events, an individual may be overcome with physical symptoms that would prohibit them from participating or even leaving the house.
Shaking, sweating, nausea, and increased heart rate are a few common physical symptoms that may occur.
It is a chronic mental health illness, which can have a variety of symptoms ranging from mild to severe. This disorder can manifest differently in people, but regardless of the level, SAD it is a form of extreme shyness.
Origins of SAD may develop from a combination of things, including genetic factors, brain chemistry, personal history, life events, and environmental factors. And similar to how there is a major difference between having a case of the blues and a depressive disorder, there is a huge difference between being shy and suffering from social anxiety disorder.
Social Anxiety is a psychological condition that makes a person suffer extreme fear of social circumstances and being close to others. An individual with this condition generally fears being judged by the people around them to a debilitating extent. This fear repeatedly discourages them from engaging in wholesome activities and relationships. Individuals with social anxiety symptoms commonly suffer from self-consciousness and fear of getting mortified or insulted. Unfortunately, even average everyday social interactions can devastate them.
Let’s take a closer look.
Typical Social Anxiety Symptoms
It is different from shyness, because SAD is often paralyzing for an individual. People suffering from the disorder fear being judged in social settings or during performances to the point where they may experience panic attacks or develop agoraphobia.
This disorder is characterized by an individual’s persistent and crushing fear of social situations. If forced in particular settings, sufferers may start blushing, sweating, trembling, or even experience chest pain or nausea. This disorder can be problematic because it can severely hinder people from living their lives. SAD can affect the ability to work, attend school, or participate in activities of any kind. It can also affect potential friendships, familial connections, intimate relationships, or any other aspect of a person’s social life.
It can affect both men and women of all ages. SAD often starts during the later phases of childhood. Persistent symptoms of six months or longer will usually lead to a diagnosis. According to studies, “About 15 million American adults have social anxiety disorder.” Symptoms usually start at around age thirteen, although, people will wait years before finding help for their disorder.
As mentioned above, Social Anxiety is an illness in which the fear of social situations, specifically fearing judgment and embarrassment in those situations, is excessive. Therefore, when someone is in a social situation, they may encounter the below mentioned social anxiety symptoms:
- a racing heart
- shortness of breath
- sweating palms
- feeling hot
To avoid these experiences, it’s common for people with Social Anxiety Symptoms to withdraw from people and social activities. They frequently isolate and spend time alone, when possible. The worry and anxiety may become so intense for some people that they no longer have the ability to look at social situations in an objective way.
In several circumstances, individuals with the disorder may even be conscious that the social anxiety they’re encountering is absurd. Nonetheless, they might still feel vulnerable to the situation. Social Anxiety Symptoms are getting worse if it’s not treated at an early stage. Once you notice behavioral changes when you are in a social gathering or fear of attaining social situations, you must concern a doctor to find out how to deal with this disorder.
Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment
In today’s extrovert centered landscape, a social anxiety disorder can be even more problematic to work through.
Exacerbated pressure to conform to societal norms can further harm people. Shyness may become more intense when it gets intensified and labeled as something shameful, bad, or weak. If you experience anxiety regularly, you may want to consider exploring the anxiety treatment options available. Anxiety occurs for different reasons, so you should also evaluate what triggers anxiety so you can approach treatment more effectively. For example, exploring social anxiety treatment may be more helpful than exploring generalized anxiety treatment or panic disorder treatment. Regardless of what form of anxiety appears, it’s worth it to explore your options to relieve the paralyzing symptoms, and combat the stigma that surrounds this disorder.
It has a variety of methods to help a person gradually re-enter social activity and feel safe. Social anxiety treatment begins with a thorough, comprehensive diagnostic process, which can help provide clinicians with a complete psychological picture. It’s important to assess whether the anxiety may be related to other possible co-occurring disorders, such as a Substance Abuse Disorder and another form of Anxiety Disorder. Treatment also includes is a thorough exploration of the specific triggers and stressors that create anxiety. As a person becomes adept at identifying their stressors, they also become better at managing their anxious reactions. At times, treatment reveals that a person is actually experiencing a more general Anxiety Disorder or even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, related to a past event.
Psychotherapy is one of the most effective and long-lasting methods that can improve social anxiety disorder. Depending on the therapist or treatment center, different kinds of therapeutic modalities can help.
Another form of social anxiety treatment is Exposure Therapy developed by Isaac Marks, which places an individual in a social situation for a period of time so that triggers can be explored. It is done in a safe, controlled environment, free of judgment, so that a person can return to the safety of therapy when he or she needs to. Regular re-exposure to the trigger can eventually teach someone that he or she is safe. Thousands of men and women have overcome with the right treatment methods.
“The patient has to be persistently avoiding situations which trigger discomfort. Second, the patient needs to be able to specify, after discussion with the therapist, clearly attainable goals.” It has varying approaches, where either the patient is briefly exposed to a triggering event, imagines a triggering event, or confronts social anxiety symptoms (like increased heart rate or chest pain).
This therapeutic approach may not be ideal for certain patients.
This therapy exposes you to triggering and often frightening situations, which may be unbearable for patients with severe symptoms. The idea of this type of therapy is to expose the patient to mild anxiety as a way to work towards long lasting healing. When patients are exposed, they realize it is not as bad as they imagined and that symptoms can be managed. This behavioral approach is largely self-managed and results in a sense of empowerment if treatment is successful.
Intensive Outpatient Social Anxiety Treatment involves helping individuals understand what’s causing their stress so that they gain the ability to work with their thoughts and emotions, and more easily overcome triggers. By providing coping tools and facilitating insights into the experience of Social Anxiety, people can become empowered and active in their own recovery.
In order to facilitate this kind of healing, there are a variety of therapeutic modalities that might be used. Of these, relaxation coping tools are common. Meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and deep breathing, especially in moments of stress, can teach someone that the fear they perceive doesn’t have to be as debilitating as it first seems.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Social Anxiety Disorder
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most common and successful treatment methods for SAD. When therapists use this approach, they help patients understand the core elements of social anxiety and their own triggers. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) also helps uncover negative and incorrect thoughts, in addition to changing them. Therapists can change behaviors through talk therapy or exercises where patients talk or write down the negative thoughts they associate with their social fears. They then challenge them by writing down reasons why their thoughts are untrue.
For instance, people sometimes think, I don’t want to speak in meetings because people will make fun of me. The therapist would then have the patient list their positive attributes that would disprove that notion, like friendships within the office, time employed there, or successful projects completed. The exercise proves, through concrete evidence, why the patient’s negative thoughts are incorrect. CBT also works to find alternative healthy coping mechanisms to minimize social anxiety.
If symptoms of SAD are severe, they may result in a panic disorder, chest pain, nausea, or shaking. Medication may be prescribed to help ease the dangerous physical manifestations of the disorder. Antidepressants, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are used for ongoing symptoms of social anxiety. Additionally, physicians may prescribe a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), like venlafaxine, to curb more intense elements of this disorder. Medication is given only at the discretion of a practicing physician.
You Are Not Alone
Everyone has moments of insecurity, which may magnify depending on the situation they are in. Statistics show that as many as fifteen million people in the United States suffer from this. While it may feel overpowering, you must not let it consume you. Seek out the support of a trusted individual like a compassionate mental health practitioner.
And in addition to common methods of treatment like psychotherapy, wellness activities, like eco-therapy, yoga, mediation, or mindfulness training may also help. These methods can calm the more severe aspects of this disorder. When used in partnership with support systems and regular therapy, this disorder can be managed and will not control your life. You are not alone.
If you or someone you know is experiencing social anxiety symptoms, contact a mental health provider for assistance.
For more information on Social Anxiety Treatment at Vantage Point please contact us 7 days a week at (855) 271-4781.