Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), also known as social phobia, is a type of anxiety disorder in which ordinary everyday social situations cause intense fear and anxiety. It is completely normal for certain social situations, such as making a presentation to a group or going on a first date, to cause some degree of fear and anxiety.
However, for those with SAD, even everyday interactions may result in extreme feelings of self-consciousness and a fear of rejection that is completely disproportionate to the situation. This may begin weeks in advance of the actual event and can prevent people from enjoying life and forming friendships and romantic connections. It may even prevent those suffering from SAD from performing necessary daily activities such as going to school or work.
Those suffering from SAD often feel that this fear is completely beyond their control and may completely avoid social situations altogether. This in turn can lead to intense self-isolation and loneliness. However, if you suffer from SAD, you are not alone—more than 19 million people in America experience social anxiety disorder, which makes it the third most common mental health disorder in the country.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder
Those suffering from social anxiety disorder may experience symptoms including
- Fear of being around others
- Fear of judgment
- Nausea or upset stomach
- Avoiding ordinary social activities
Despite considerable study of social anxiety disorder, researchers have not succeeded in determining its exact cause. It is known that a family history appears to be a major risk factor, which indicates that genetics may play a role in its development alongside some environmental factors. Though the condition is not caused by any other anxiety disorder, it often occurs alongside other disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression.
The average age of onset for SAD is the teenage years, and it is slightly more common among women than men. However, it is important to remember that the condition can affect anyone at any age. Many individuals who suffer from the condition report having extreme shyness or social inhibition during their childhood, but this is not always the case.
Often, those suffering from the condition will avoid seeking treatment and attempt to cope with it or seek alternative remedies—but without help, SAD rarely goes away on its own. Fortunately, there are several known treatments that can help.
The most common treatment uses a combination of medication and talk therapy. When used together, these methods offer a particularly effective treatment plan.
Some common medications include
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
- Beta blockers
A variety of talk therapies can be used to help those suffering from SAD; these may be delivered either individually or in a group setting. Some of these therapies include
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Interpersonal therapy (IPT)
- Rational emotive behavior therapy
- Exposure therapy
These therapies may be assisted through the use of remote technology, which could be particularly helpful for those fearful of leaving their home. However, it is important for those suffering from SAD to discuss their condition with a professional to determine the appropriate treatment plan for social interactions.
Dealing with SAD can cause negative thoughts with work or school. People with social anxiety may experience physical symptoms long or short-term. It is important to get help and treating social anxiety disorder with the best care.
Dealing with anxiety and depression can be side effects that the person may not realize is from SAD. Recently the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved some recent treatment options that could help.
If you or someone you know is suffering from social anxiety disorder, know that this is not unusual. Many people experience this condition even long-term, and it is okay to discuss it openly with a mental health professional to decide on a treatment plan. This will be the first step on the journey to a happier and more fulfilling life.
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