Most of us take for granted the fact that we can walk into a roomful of people in a party and proceed to have a good time, while enjoying what the night has to offer. However, there are some of us of who have to deal with a debilitating form of anxiety that manifests itself in an intense fear of social situations and interacting with other people. Let's take a look at social anxiety disorder, its symptoms and treatment.
Social anxiety disorder can be defined as an irrational fear of social interaction and situations. Individuals with this condition feel left out, shy and uncomfortable around large groups of people. Ironically, people want to be included in these situations, and want to belong and feel like they're part of a group. However, what stops them from comfortably enjoying social functions or relaxing around people is the irrational fear that is brought on by by their condition.
Social anxiety disorder is more common than you think, and it is estimated that up to 13.3 percent of the American public is affected by the condition at one point in their life. Most individuals have lived with this debilitating type of anxiety for so long that they see no end in sight to their suffering. However, with education, psychotherapy and medication, one can emerge from the haze of confusion that is social anxiety disorder and become a member of the society in their community, free to mingle with others with relative ease, winning friends and confidants in the process.
What are the signs to watch out for when it comes to social anxiety disorder? Here is a simple checklist that can help:
Extreme fear at the thought of speaking in public
Fear of eating in public
Excessive blushing, sweating or a racing heart when in social situations
Automatic negative emotional cycles, muscle twitches, dry throat and mouth when in the company of others
An irrational fear of being teased or ridiculed in group situations
Fear of being observed in social situations
The above list is by no means exhaustive, and as such you should consult a qualified therapist for an in-depth diagnosis and advice on your symptoms.
There are numerous possible causes of social anxiety disorder, some of which include:
Genetic predisposition: it has been noted that social anxiety disorder may run in families. However, this is a treatable condition.
Serotogonic dysfunction: this has to do with an imbalance of brain chemicals, a condition that can be rectified by using medication.
Onset of adolescence: this condition normally develops for people in their mid-teens, and may become a lifelong condition if proper treatment is not given.
Gender: women tend to develop social anxiety more than men.
Most people who have this condition are afraid of 'losing face' or being embarrassed in public. Interestingly, most individuals are aware that their fears are irrational and can be controlled, if only they had the right support and information. It is also important to note that this condition is often accompanied with other anxiety disorders and depression. Some people choose to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, which turns social anxiety (also known as social phobia) into a vicious cycle, and may put someone at risk of being a substance abuser.
Social anxiety disorder has far reaching implications and consequences for individuals who have to live with it, and the people around them. For example, people with social phobia find it hard to make and keep friends, and may develop stress-related conditions that may force them to drop out of school or lose their jobs. In a 1990 study, it was estimated that social anxiety cost the US government $42 billion in direct and indirect costs. Most people with this condition may also avoid seeking work due to the difficulty in going to face-to-face or panel job interviews.