Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is an anxiety disorder in which a person has an excessive and unreasonable fear of social situations.
Social anxiety disorder is the second most common type of anxiety disorder and the third most common mental disorder in the U.S., after depression and alcohol dependence. An estimated 19.2 million Americans have social anxiety disorder. The disorder most often surfaces in adolescence or early adulthood, but can occur at any time, including early childhood. It is more common in women than in men.
A person with social anxiety disorder is afraid that he or she will make mistakes, look bad, and be embarrassed or humiliated in front of others. The fear may be made worse by a lack of social skills or experience in social situations. The anxiety can build into a panic attack. As a result of the fear, the person endures certain social situations in extreme distress or may avoid them altogether. In many cases, the person is aware that the fear is unreasonable, yet is unable to overcome it.
People with social anxiety disorder suffer from distorted thinking, including false beliefs about social situations and the negative opinions of others. Without treatment, social anxiety disorder can negatively interfere with the person’s normal daily routine, including school, work, social activities, and relationships.
Most people with social anxiety disorder fear more than one social situation. Some situations that commonly provoke anxiety include:
Social anxiety disorder may be linked to other mental illnesses, such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression. In fact, many people with social anxiety disorder initially see the doctor with complaints related to these disorders, not because of social anxiety symptoms.
Many people with social anxiety disorder feel that there is “something wrong,” but don’t recognize their feeling as a sign of illness. Symptoms of social anxiety disorder can include:
If symptoms of social anxiety disorder are present, the doctor will begin an evaluation by asking questions about your medical history and performing a physical exam. Although there are no lab tests to specifically diagnose social anxiety disorder, the doctor may use various tests to make sure that a physical illness isn’t the cause of the symptoms.
For social anxiety disorder, the most effective treatment currently available is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Medication may also be used to help ease the symptoms of social anxiety disorder so that CBT is more effective. Drugs may also be used alone.
Counseling to improve self-esteem and social skills, as well as relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, may also help a person deal with social anxiety disorder.
Studies have shown that cognitive-behavioral therapy for social anxiety has been markedly successful. Research and clinical evidence alike indicate that cognitive-behavioral therapy, which should be comprehensive in nature, produces permanent changes in the lives of people. Although it takes both consistency and persistence, social anxiety disorder can be overcome, and that it good news.
A good therapy program will supply the necessary and specific strategies as well as indicate to people how and why they need to practice, work on, and begin to accept rational thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and perceptions.
When seeking help for this problem, it is always advisable to search for a specialist who understands this problem well and knows how to treat it. Social anxiety is a fully treatable condition and can be overcome with effective therapy, work, and patience. Jennifer Nahrebeski, Mental Health Counselor, has dedicated her career to counseling children, adults and families and has vast experience in treating anxiety. If you or a loved one suffers from social anxiety disorder, call Jennifer to learn more how she can help you overcome this disorder. You can reach her via her contact page or via phone at (716) 432-365.