Social anxiety disorder which is also known as social phobia is yet another type of anxiety disorder. The disorder is characterized by an abnormal fear in social situations. The result is an unreasonable and irrational distress. In some cases, even the patient is impaired from performing normal activities in his/her daily life.
Social anxiety disorder is a type of chronic fear of participating in social affairs because the person is always scared of being humiliated and facing embarrassing situations. The patient can realize his fears and the following actions as irrational, but cannot overcome it.
The people with social anxiety disorder find it difficult to cope with the following situations:
- Meeting and socializing with new people
- Being watched by people
- Initiating talks
- Public speaking
- Performing on the stage
- Being criticized
- Going on a date
- Making phone calls
- Eating in restaurants or public washrooms
- Speaking up or putting his/her views in a meeting
- Attending parties and any type of social gatherings
The patients who suffer from social anxiety disorder always live in the fear of being watched and criticized by others. Sometimes, these thoughts are so severe that the patient begins to face a lot of problems in school, college, or workplace. The symptoms of social anxiety disorder while in social situations are:
- Profuse sweating
- Difficulty in talking
The common psychological symptoms are:
- Too much worry and sleeplessness for days before an upcoming social situation.
- Fear of being watched by strangers.
- Intense self-consciousness and anxiety.
- Fear of humiliating oneself.
- Avoidance of social situations
The other common physical symptoms are:
- Increased heartbeat
- Rapid breathing
- Hot or cold flashes
- Upset stomach
- Dry mouth
- Shivering and shaky voice
- Fainting at extreme situations
Why Does it Happen?
- Heredity causes – there are enough instances where studies have proved that reactions to social criticism operate in a more or less similar way in the members of the family. The child of the parents where the father or the mother, or both of them have been shy and introvert are likely to be born shy to social situations.
- Environmental Causes – Children are more vulnerable to social situations than grown up and adult people. The child may be brought up in a family where social gatherings and participations in social situations are generally avoided. This is likely to cause social phobia in the children of that family.
- Negative Experiences – Teenagers often fall prey to embarrassing and unwelcome situations at school or college, like, getting ridiculed publicly for his/her body shape or look. This invokes social fear in the person, and the negative experience can lead them to anxiety while in social situations because of the fear of getting criticized by people again.
- Neurological causes or Chemical imbalances - Chemical imbalance in the brain is yet another cause of social phobia. The imbalance of serotonin in the brain cells hampers the functioning of the brain and the person when placed in a normal social situation gets scared of the same.
- Some scientists are of the opinion that amygdale regulates the response to fear, so if it is over-reactive you will develop social phobia.
Medication should be assisted by a change in the lifestyle to accelerate the treatment process. You should take care of the following when you are suffering from social anxiety disorder:
- Avoid Coffee, tea, cold drinks, energy drinks, and chocolates. These are known to contain caffeine and are responsible to increase anxiety symptoms.
- Avoid alcohol as it increases the chances of anxiety attack.
- Quit smoking.
- Get adequate sleep. Take enough rest. If you are sleep deprived, you are more likely to get anxiety attacks.
Medication is essential in the treatment of social anxiety disorder, but it is more fruitful when therapies and self-help techniques are used side by side.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been found to be most effective in the treatment of social anxiety disorder or social phobia. It emphasizes on the fact that our feelings are always a result of what we think. A change in the way we think about the social situations is sure to yield results.
- Learning about taking control of your anxiety through breathing exercises and relaxation.
- Ward away negative thoughts and replace them with more balanced and rational ones.
- Face the social situations slowly, and systematically. Mere avoiding them is never going to help.