Social Anxiety Disorder, or SAD (also known as General Social Phobia), is a psychological disorder that is experienced by up to thirteen percent of American citizens. It is characterized by a number of symptoms, and though it is a chronic problem that as of yet has no cure, treatments for Social Anxiety are growing in both number and effectiveness. Even though it can have drastic effects on how one interacts the with the outside world and other people, counseling and treatment for this disorder is rarely sought after by those suffering with SAD.
General social phobias may be caused by nearly any social interaction. Indeed, the mere thought or possibility of these interactions can trigger feelings of anxiety. These interactions can include talking to new people, public speaking, meetings, eating or drinking in public and even using public restrooms. Nearly anything that involves other people can trigger anxiety in individuals suffering from SAD. Although the potential triggers may be rather abstract in nature, the symptoms experienced are both very specific and very real.
Signs can vary wildly in intensity and scope, and every individual with SAD experiences them. As is often the case with psychological disorders, this anxiety manifests itself with both psychological and physical symptoms.
Psychological symptoms can include:
- Fear that others are watching and analyzing the individual, even in typical social situations. This is sometimes called the “spotlight effect”
- Intense trepidation of any form of interaction with a stranger or person of status, including professors or managers
- Acute anxiety that may last for extended periods of time when anticipating a particular social interaction, including public speaking
- Intense anxiety when faced with the possibility of an innocuous interaction.
- Relentless and pervasive self-consciousness, constant feeling of “danger” in social situations
- There are physical symptoms, as well.These may include:
- Increase in heart rate
- Fast and shallow breathing
- Sweating, typically around the palms
- A perceived rise in temperature
- Excessive tension in muscles
- An upset stomach
How Do You Overcome Social Anxiety Disorder?
If you are at the point to where you want to do something about your social anxiety but realize that you don’t know what to do or where to start, seeking the counseling and help of a trained mental health professional is recommended. They will know exactly what to say to you without making you nervous and work with you to tackle the obstacles of your anxiety. The doctor will ask why you think you have a social anxiety disorder and will also want a complete list of your symptoms.
Be honest with your doctor and do not leave out any details of your feelings. Don’t be shy on talking when talking with your therapist, they have probably heard it all before. With this information, your doctor can give you an accurate diagnosis and treatments available.
Some people are fortunate and have only minor social anxiety disorder and can overcome their fears without treatments. Others with more severe cases may require more involved courses of treatment. Your doctor may want to start you on medications that will help reduce your anxiety, but the drug usually takes several weeks for you to tell a difference. Drugs are not a cure for anxiety, but can provide temporary relief as a patient works to try and resolve what triggers their anxiety and find solutions.
Another drug your physician may prescribe to help you overcome your social anxiety disorder is anti-anxiety medication, which should only be used for a short period of time. If you are prescribed this medication, you should not stop taking it without your doctor’s supervision because of the withdrawal symptoms you may experience. Antidepressants are often used to treat anxiety disorders as well. Anxiety and depression are often linked and these medications may not only help the patient’s anxiety symptoms but any signs of depression that they may also be experiencing.
Should You Seek Professional Counseling?
There are several types of counseling used for treating social anxiety disorder, so you may want to seek the right therapy as an effective way for overcoming social anxiety. Usually anxious thoughts develop after one or a few humiliating or embarrassing social situations that may leave you feeling overwhelmed emotionally.
By discussing these thoughts with a therapist and talking about the time or place your anxiety actually started, you could develop a more positive outlook and healthier perspective on overcoming social anxiety symptoms.
The way you breathe is very important when facing anxiety, so learning the right breathing techniques will help you during an anxiety moment. By slowing your breathing down and breathing in regular patterns, oxygen feeds the brain and gives you the ability to think through the emotional issues. This is a simple yet very effective way of alleviating a panic attack or reducing anxious feelings.
Treatment for SAD, and most other anxiety disorders, aims to get the patient back to being able to function and partake in social situations without their anxiety taking control and causing them to withdraw and avoid. The prognosis for effectively treating social anxiety disorder is generally positive, but the first step is reaching out for help. Patients do not have to live with their anxiety once they learn how to overcome it. If you or a loved one one suspect you may be dealing with social anxiety disorder, seeking the help and advice of licensed mental health professional may be extremely beneficial in reclaiming your social life and the ability to be out in public with other people.
For more information detailing social anxiety disorder please check out this great video below.