Are you self-conscious of everyday social situations? Do you regularly avoid meeting new people? Are you constantly afraid of being judged by others? If you have been feeling this way for at least six months, it’s very likely that you have social anxiety disorder.
What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?
More than a general feeling of shyness, social anxiety disorder is a chronic condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It even affects children, who tend to experience an irrational fear of others’ judgment. It’s a mental health condition (sometimes referred to as social phobia) that can interfere with daily life. Symptoms range from mild to severe, but all of them are possible to overcome if you seek treatment.
- Panicked reactions, including shaking, shortness of breath, or sweating in social situations.
- Avoiding or worrying about situations that may provoke anxiety. These can include work presentations, eating in front of people, meeting new people, attending parties, or even going to concerts.
- Experiencing severe distress of impairment to function while socializing or being in a social setting.
- A constant fear of being judged by others.
People with social anxiety disorder tend to think that they are the only people with that problem. It’s very common and it persists to be a problem when it goes undiscussed. When it comes to mental health, seek the help you need to better navigate your way through life. Don’t be embarrassed about it because you are not alone. Make the decision to get help and you may be able to avoid living with the following truths about social anxiety disorder.
It Is Very Common
According to the latest government epidemiological data, about 22 million Americans experience social anxiety disorder. That equates to 7% of the entire population. Even if the condition doesn’t affect you, it may affect someone you know. If they ask for help or confide in you, don’t shrug it off as nothing. If you have social anxiety disorder, you are not alone and help is easily accessible.
It’s Not A Fear Of Public Speaking
It’s quite common for people to get nervous when they have to speak in public, especially if the audience is large. People with social anxiety disorder get nervous about everyday interactions or social instances. Meeting new people, going to a public restroom, eating or drinking near others, or talking on the phone can induce crippling fear.
It Not The Same Thing As Being Shy
Social anxiety disorder and shyness share similar traits, but they are most certainly not the same diagnosis. Some people who have the condition may seem outgoing, but they can hide their anxious feelings. It’s not always crippling, but it doesn’t mean that it causes people to shy away or withdraw from social contact or events. The key distinction often lies in the severity of the symptoms. Social anxiety disorder typically involves constant dread about social situations.
It Can Cause A Complete Shutdown
A person with social anxiety disorder may get excited about doing activities outside of their comfort zone. Said person can even be in a social situation and enjoy life. Out of nowhere, legs can start to shake and heartbeat accelerates. Headaches, panic, or intense sweating may ensue and the only way to survive is to escape. It’s like a switch flips in the brain and it can feel as though the person cannot breathe.
It Goes Beyond One Specific Moment
People with social anxiety disorder often spend a lot of time analyzing interactions with others. This can occur before, during, or after they happen. If someone fears meeting a new person and they will meet them at a friend’s dinner, for example, they may play out the scenario over and over again. What will they say? How will they react to meeting the new person? Is there an exit strategy if everything goes south? They over-analyze and scrutinize about fitting in and feel that the other person(s) will judge them openly. Every flaw may come to light and life won’t be the same after.
It Can Be Treated
The symptoms of social anxiety disorder can overwhelm the person past the point of frustration and sadness. The good news is that there are many treatment options available. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, helps patients develop new thinking strategies. In a way, it reroutes pathways that lead to signature behaviors of the condition. There are ways to react differently to situations, and therapists provide suggestions to help them feel less anxious. Some cases may require a different approach to healing. The important thing is to seek help as soon as possible. There is no shame for getting help and improving mental health.