Social phobia or social anxiety disorder occurs when an individual has excessive fears and unreasonable anxiety when involved in social situations. This anxiety disorder is more than just the common uneasiness that one feels in front of people at certain times. The extreme self consciousness and the intense nervousness that develop in these individuals can cause them to avoid social situations that trigger these feelings.
It is normal for a person to feel shy and nervous in certain situations. When in front of a crowd, when attending an interview, or giving a speech for example. However, for a person who has social phobia, the feelings of shyness and self-consciousness build into a powerful fear. This makes him/her avoid everyday social situations such as chatting with colleagues at the workplace lunch table, avoid making eye contact with others, etc.
Social anxiety disorder is therefore a chronic psycho-pathological problem. It can be incredibly distressing and significantly affects the quality of life of the individual.
Social Anxiety Disorder Symptoms And Treatment Options
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The exact causes of social phobia is not clearly known. However, if a parent is known to suffer from social phobia, the child stands a higher chance of developing the disorder. Some medical experts also attribute the occurrence of the disorders to neurobiological causes such as an imbalance in the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Studies have also indicated that specific areas in the brain such as the amygdala are more active in persons suffering from social phobia.
Social causes and life experiences also seem to contribute to the build-up of social phobia. Negative experiences that occur in one’s life and the individual’s reaction to them are seen to lead some into developing social anxiety. Regularly exposed to situations where the person feels inferior may lead to development of negative feelings about oneself and low self esteem. This can later lead on to social phobia. Children who lead very protected and sheltered lives and do not learn required social skills as part of their development have more chances of developing the disorder.
Social Phobia Causes
Social anxiety disorder doesn’t have a single definite cause, but, certain psychological environmental and biological factors are thought to represent the trigger. It is claimed that it results from a neurotransmitter imbalance, which transmits information from a single nerve cell to the other in the brain of humans.
This mental condition may also be a genetic disorder that parents can pass to their children. Social anxiety may also be observed in those who went through an over-protective childhood or maybe a humiliating experience sometime in the past.
Social Phobia – Symptoms
Those suffering from social anxiety disorder experience or display a variety of differing mental and physical symptoms: Most social situations of everyday life cause feelings of fears and anxiety that cause the individual to keep thinking about them to the point of feeling panicky and he/she would go to great lengths to avoid such situations. The individual always feels they are closely watched, criticized or judged by others.
The affected person feels anticipatory anxiety – the fear that a situation may bring upon some undesirable effect even before it happens – sometimes as early as a fortnight before the event. The person may know that the fear has no reasonable cause but is not able to get rid of the anxiety. They are prone to have distorted thinking about certain situations and tend to develop negative opinions about others.
Most individuals with social phobia have irrational fears about more than one social situation. Common physical symptoms include sweating, pounding of the heart, muscle tension, diarrhea, blushing, upset stomach, shaking, confusion, etc. Social phobia is sometimes linked to mental disorders like depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, etc. It is estimated that an approximated 19.2 million Americans suffer from the disorder. It commonly surfaces during adolescence and sometimes during early adulthood. However, it can occur even during childhood. More women are seen to suffer from social phobia than men.
Social Phobia In Children
Children are prone to such disorders due to their surroundings. Studies have shown that most of the cases of anxiety begin around age six and just before age 20. Kids are said to suffer from social anxiety when they have a constant fear of ridicule, humiliation, or being nervous, and self-conscious, particularly in strange cases or when one is being evaluated or watched, that lead to severe repercussions for a kid’s academic and social development. Dismissing it as “child thing” is probably the most stupid thing any caretaker, parent or teacher can do. Untreated anxiety or social phobia leads to psychological complications and in certain critical cases even suicide. Check out our article specifically relating to child anxiety >>>
Social Phobia – Treatment Options
There are no laboratory tests to diagnose social anxiety disorder. Generally, a diagnosis is made by the medical specialist by a discussion of the medical history of the patient and making a physical exam. In case of absence of any physical illness, the patient may be referred to a psychiatrist or a psychologist who makes a series of assessments and interviews using specially designed tools to evaluate the individual for social anxiety disorder as well as the degree of dysfunction.
Social Anxiety Treatment typically involves psychological counselling and medication. However, medications are only usually prescribed when counselling alone is not enough to bring down levels of associated anxiety as well as depression.
Combination treatment is best for long-term treatment, addressing fear and generalized anxiety in various social situations. For those who are anxious about only one or just a few kinds of situations, like eating in front of people or public speaking, counselling usually suffices.
Self help treatments and programs should not be overlooked either – there are some excellent resources out there that will help you beat social anxiety in your own time and space.
One of the most effective methods currently available is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This is also used in conjunction with medications (in some cases) to make it more effective. In yet other cases, only drugs may be used for treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy aims at desensitizing the person systematically by real-life exposure to the dreaded situation. The individual is taught to react differently when encountering a situation that triggers social anxiety. The treatment is aimed at working through the simulated social situation that caused panic in a relaxed manner in a more protected and safer environment (the therapist’s clinic).
Several types of drugs are used for the treatment of social phobia including antidepressants (Paxil), tranquilizers and benzodiazepines (Ativan and Klonopin), and beta blockers to reduce heartbeat and involuntary shaking. Regular counseling to improve self esteem and use of relaxation techniques such as yoga, breathing exercises and meditation are also seen to help.
Tips To Help Fight Social Anxiety Disorder
Here are some tips on how to get over the problem;
- Foster positive thinking. Particularly when it comes to accepting one’s mistakes.
- Spend some time with friends and family more often.
- Join a group of individuals dealing with the disorder.
- Join a group with similar dislikes and likes as you.
- Spend time with those who will promote your participation.
- Be part of sporting activities and other related activities.
- Take a couple of courses on public speaking.
- Calm your mind through meditation, such as yoga. It can be of great help in the control of the mind particularly in social forums.
- Try out a couple of natural remedies to help you deal with anxiety.
- Don’t be around those who are considered as negative or may be foster negativity. Always remember that you are special and the best.
There are no specific techniques to deal with such disorders. The treatment of social anxiety in kids varies from that in adults, since it may be more severe. However, both treatments work on a similar concept. The mind has more power to help in overcoming this disorder. In a case you or any of your family members has this disorder, seek a psychologist help for a fast and full recovery.
Social Phobia – Self Help Treatment
Self help programs are often overlooked but can prove to be a god-send when it comes to dealing with social anxiety. Often working through a program in a familiar, comfortable environment can prove incredibly effective and in a shorter period of time.
When it comes to social phobia Beat Your Fears have several recommended self help treatment options. All are simple but supportive resources used by millions of sufferers, psychologists & medics. They are proven to cure your anxiety and panic attacks and prevent ever developing high anxiety or panic attacks again. The one we particularly suggest that you check out is: