Social Anxiety Disorder Basic Facts

Social Anxiety Disorder Basic Facts: When Socializing is Terrifying

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) states that approximately 15 million adult Americans and many, more worldwide experience Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). This places it as the single most common chronic anxiety condition that exists. The disorder affects from people from all walks of life and in recent years, entertainer Donny Osmond came forward to announce that he has struggled with SAD since childhood.

Social Phobia Goes Beyond Shyness

Most people experience a degree of shyness when meeting new people or even those they are already acquainted with socially. With SAD, the shyness is extreme and exaggerated, causing the sufferer to feel very uneasy, on-edge or even panicky when he is in a social setting. The typical symptoms of anxiety will manifest when SAD sufferers are in the presence of people they are uncomfortable with, which is usually everyone outside of their immediate family and very close friends.

SAD Symptoms

The symptoms of anxiety experienced by people with SAD include the common ones which are feelings of panic and apprehension, trembling, an urge to escape, rapid heart rate and breathing, muscle tension, feelings of unreality (depersonalization and derealization) and dizziness.

The anxiety symptoms that seem to be more intense in SAD sufferers are feelings of embarrassment, blushing, dry mouth, sweating and feeling that others are judging them. Symptoms can vary among those with SAD, depending on how developed the disorder is. Some will experience symptoms even while meeting with only one person, while symptoms only manifest in others when they are in social settings with several people present.

Inappropriate Timing of the Fight or Flight Response

Research studies by mental health groups in regard to social phobia have found that most patients develop the disorder during childhood. Over time, learned behaviors develop that cause the “fight of flight response” to become triggered more often and at inappropriate times, when SAD sufferers attempt to be active socially. The anxiety itself is not an unnatural emotion but it is the timing of it that becomes disordered (not in the order intended). Socially phobic people have learned to recognize social events and meeting new people, as a threat to them.

Treatments for SAD

There are psychiatric therapies including those in the “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” category that help people with SAD, to change the way they think about social events and settings. They also learn to respond differently to the feelings and symptoms of anxiety, so that they can channel the energy produced by it into putting their best foot forward when meeting new people. It is a therapy that helps anxiety patients to react positively to anxiety, so that it works for them, rather than against them.

There are also medications that can be combined with psychiatric therapies when needed or taken as a single treatment, including anti-anxiety drugs and SSRI anti-depressants. People with SAD should also self-educate about their disorder because knowledge can become power to help them overcome SAD or to greatly diminish the effects of it (coping) in their lives.

Social Anxiety Disorder Problem

Social Anxiety Disorder: One of the More Prevalent but Lesser Known Mental Disorders

With mental illness on the steady increase, disorders such as Depression, Bipolar Disorder and Generalised Anxiety Disorder are becoming widely known. However there is another little known mental illness described by recent studies as the third largest disorder in the United States of America. The name of this disorder is Social Anxiety Disorder.

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia as it is sometimes called is the anxiety of being evaluated negatively by other people. The fear of judgement experienced by a person with the disorder leads to feelings of inadequacy, embarrassment and humiliation. It also may result in Depression and substance abuse.

Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder.

Social Anxiety Disorder produces feelings of anxiety when an individual is confronted with a social situation. There are acute physiological symptoms that accompany the disorder. These include:

  • heightened fear
  • blushing
  • rapid heartbeat
  • perspiration
  • parched throat and mouth
  • shaking
  • difficulty swallowing
  • muscle spasms

Situations Causing Distress in People With Social Anxiety Disorder.

There are a number of situations which cause distress in individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder. These may include:

  • Being judged by others
  • Meeting people for the first time
  • Being the center of attention
  • Being observed while doing something
  • Social encounters that involve strangers

Who is Affected by Social Anxiety Disorder?

Many people are affected by Social Anxiety Disorder. However it is slightly more prevalent in women than in men. Recent studies have shown Social Anxiety Disorder is the third most common mental disorder in the world.

Substance Abuse and Social Anxiety Disorder.

Individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs as a means of coping with the stress, low self-esteem and depression the disorder causes. According to Timothy J. Bruce PHD, in the article “Social Anxiety Disorder: A Common Underrecognized Mental Disorder”, a significant percent of patients with Social Anxiety Disorder have a dependency on drugs or alcohol. “Up to 16 percent of patients who present with Social Phobia have alcohol abuse problems” says Bruce.

Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder.

Social Anxiety Disorder is often misdiagnosed as panic attacks or depression. This can make treating the disorder quite difficult. However when correctly diagnosed, a combination of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and medication has been found to be useful in treating individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder.

Despite the prevalence of Social Anxiety Disorder, it is often misdiagnosed. Social Anxiety Disorder is however a very real disorder with specific symptoms. If the symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder are left untreated they can be crippling to the person with the disorder and often result in the individual avoiding all situations involving social contact.

The avoidance of social situations has subsequent, negative consequences to the social, work life and finances of the afflicted individual. However with the right medical help there is a good outcome for those with the disorder. Individuals who believe they may be experiencing the symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder should consult a health professional.