Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also known as social phobia, is one of the most common types of psychiatric disorders, affecting about 13% of the population, including more than 7% of people at any time, according to the Social Anxiety Disorder Association.
Social anxiety disorder is the fear of interaction with other people. Individuals with social anxiety disorder fear social situations, because they fear being judged by other people.
Others may perceive individuals with social anxiety disorder as being shy, quiet and withdrawn, or even unfriendly or aloof. People with social anxiety disorder want to have friends and be socially involved – they just fear doing so, so they avoid social situations.
Social Anxiety Disorder vs. General Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety is a normal response to a situation that makes an individual feel threatened or uncomfortable. But people with an anxiety disorder experience anxiety so intense and pervasive they cannot cope with day-to-day challenges. In some cases, they may be completely disabled by their anxiety disorder.
The symptoms of social anxiety disorder are the same as for a general anxiety disorder. The big difference is that anxiety attacks are brought on by social situations, not by day-to-day challenges and stress.
Social anxiety disorder may be triggered when an individual is being introduced to others, criticized, meeting with people considered to be important or speaking in public. In fact, virtually any social situation can trigger an anxiety attack when someone has social anxiety disorder. While many of us may become nervous in some of these situations, those with social anxiety disorder have a far greater reaction and may not be able to cope with the situation at hand.
Medical Impact of Social Anxiety Disorder
An individual with social anxiety disorder often has other stress-related conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Physical symptoms may include shaking, sweating, a racing heart, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Headaches, hot flashes, trembling hands, fatigue and irritability can all result from social anxiety disorder.
Those with social anxiety disorder also have high rates of alcoholism and other substance abuse, family difficulties, and problems and a lack of personal relationships. They also often have difficulty finding employment and keeping a job. Co-occurring disorders, including depression are also common.
Signs of Social Anxiety Disorder
A person who requires treatment for social anxiety disorder may appear overwhelmed by routine social situations and may even be completely disabled and unable to function.
Individuals with social anxiety disorder are excessively fearful, worried and tense. They may have flashbacks about past trauma, and typically suffer from insomnia.
Anxiety disorders, including social anxiety disorder, can also result in ritualistic behavior. Signs of anxiety disorder in childhood, when it often begins, include a tendency to seek perfection and a need for constant reassurance.
Causes of Social Anxiety Disorder
Genetics are believed to be a factor in the cause of social anxiety disorder, since the probability of having social anxiety disorder is higher when someone else in the family has it. It is especially common among twins.
Social experiences are also a factor in whether a person develops social anxiety disorder. A person who grows up being bullied, ignored, rejected or not fitting in will be more likely to develop social anxiety disorder, while someone who is popular will be less likely to develop social anxiety disorder. Children whose parents emphasize the importance of other’s opinions and who use shame as a form of discipline are also more likely to develop social anxiety disorder.
Treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder
Treatment of social anxiety disorder typically depends primarily on behavioral therapy, but may also include a combination of medication, such as antidepressants. Relaxation techniques and coping strategies are used to help the patient develop an understanding of what triggers their anxiety.
Since individuals with social anxiety disorder are unable to function well, if at all, in groups, individual therapy is needed. Group therapy may be used for patients when they reach the point where they are able to function in a group setting.
Helping Someone Find Treatment For Social Anxiety Disorder
If you recognize social anxiety disorder symptoms in someone you know, do something about it. Seek social anxiety disorder treatment immediately.