Let’s Talk about Social Anxiety

Social Anxiety (SAD)

 Social anxiety is a mental health disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it is rooted in the “persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and feeling embarrassed or humiliated by their actions.” Symptoms can be mild to severe with a wide variety of triggers and scenarios that may affect the individual.

Due to social anxiety’s variations, the origins of social anxiety disorder are also numerous. Factors like genetic components, personal history, trauma, and environmental factors may all play a role.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “36 percent of people with social anxiety disorder report symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help.” This could be due to the stigma around mental health.

Social Anxiety Disorder Can Put the Brakes On Living

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) can be paralyzing for a person. People who have symptoms may have a crippling fear of judgment during social interactions or performances. As a result, the disorder may result in panic attacks or avoidance. It may interrupt work, school, and social opportunities causing major obstacles in life.

Social anxiety symptoms can put the brakes on social functioning. For example, if a student is asked to participate in a class discussion, they might start to blush, sweat, tremble, or experience pain or immobility. They may start to avoid triggering situations entirely.

Serious forms of social anxiety may result in agoraphobia. In these instances, people may be unable to be a part of social settings of any kind. And in other cases, people may be unable to leave their homes out of fear.

Less severe forms of social anxiety can also be problematic. SAD can prevent people from participating in standard social exchanges, like grocery shopping or asking a waiter a question.

Regardless, untreated social anxiety can grow worse over time. It can cause people to become withdrawn, isolated, and to give up on pursuing their goals.

Fighting Stigma to Find Help

People suffering from social anxiety disorder may feel that they cannot be honest with others out of fear of being ridiculed or shamed. However, social anxiety is a mental health disorder and is not something that will go away by itself. Many may not know how crippling the symptoms can be.

Because of the nature of the disorder, people may turn to substances to help them cope with its challenges as they grow older. For example, an individual might turn to a numbing substance to cope with the necessity of traditional employment and its social aspects. This can lead to dangerous outcomes like substance addiction and health problems.

There are many treatments that can help ease the symptoms of social anxiety disorder. Regular psychotherapy is a proven method that can alleviate symptoms. Different types of therapeutic approaches help get to the root of the disorder’s origins.

One type of treatment approach is called brief exposure therapy. With this approach the patient may be briefly exposed to a triggering event by imagining a social scenario. The practitioner will provide support as the patient confronts their symptoms (like increased heart rate or excessive sweating). This type of approach exposes the patient to elements of their anxiety as a way to prove that their reasons for fear are unfounded.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help people suffering from social anxiety by providing persistent exercises to reverse their fears. Over time, therapists may be able to change behavior through a combination of strategies and talk therapy.

Once specific social fears are understood, therapists will help patients confront those fears with evidence as to why they are false. For example, if a person has a severe fear of public speaking, they will have to discuss what specifically scares them. So if a patient says they are scared people will make fun of him, the therapist would have him cite evidence like positive relationships within the office and the respectful work environment. Those examples would dispel the patient’s fears. This verbal exchange repeated over time can rectify elements of social anxiety.

Take the First Step

Studies show that as many as fifteen million people in the United States suffer from some form of social anxiety disorder. But due to the expanding field of mental health practice and research, there are many resources to help this large number.

Take the first step and find a mental health therapist. They are trained to support you by providing a safe haven as you being your therapeutic work. Additionally, holistic methods of healing like meditation, journaling, or support groups may also help. Understanding specific triggers that contribute to your social anxiety is crucial. But you have to take the first step. Don’t hesitate. Help is waiting.