Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a common issue that typically begins when the sufferer is a teenager. It’s a long-term and overwhelming fear of social situations. It can be a very distressing issue and it can have huge impacts on day to day living, and for most people, it doesn’t resolve without treatment.
There is a misconception that those with social anxiety are merely shy, however it is much more serious than this. Those who suffer with this anxiety disorder experience strong fear that impacts everyday activities, self confidence, relationships and work/school life. It’s normal to sometimes feel nervous or worried about social situations, for example a work function or a party where you don’t know anyone, however it’s a problem when you feel overly worried before, during and after them. If you have social anxiety disorder, you may find yourself avoiding all social contact.
The disorder can manifest itself in different ways. Here are a few situations that tend to trigger it:
- Talking to strangers
- Public speaking
- Eye contact
- Going to school or work
- Starting conversations
- Talking on the phone
Symptoms can include nausea, sweating, trembling, palpitations, muscle tension, dizziness, stomach aches, breathlessness and panic attacks.
So what causes social anxiety disorder? There are a few things that can have something to do with it. Firstly genetics – if a family member suffers with it, you’re more at risk of developing it too. Research suggests it may also be linked to an overactive amygdala which is the part of the brain that controls your fear response. It may also be linked to a history of abuse, bulling or teasing.
How can you treat it? Here are some tips that may help:
- Try writing down your thoughts and behaviours in certain social situations to understand your anxiety more.
- Practice some relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises. You can read our blog post about them HERE.
- Break down worrisome situations into smaller parts and practise feeling more relaxed with each part at a time.
- Focus on what people are saying rather than assuming the worst.
If your social anxiety is affecting your everyday life, you should reach out to a professional. Treatment can include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which helps you to identify negative thought patterns and behaviours, and change them. Antidepressants may also be prescribed, usually a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
If you’re struggling with social anxiety disorder, get in touch with Dalton Wise and start your journey towards mental wellness.