Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a common anxiety disorder that affects many people. People with social anxiety have excessive and unreasonable fears before and during different social situations. With a social anxiety disorder, normal, everyday interactions may cause feelings of anxiety, nervousness, self-consciousness and embarrassment. Individuals who suffer from social phobia may avoid certain social situations because of the overwhelming fear and anxiety that these situations may cause. The anxiety and emotional discomfort caused by a social anxiety disorder may interfere with daily routines, relationships, school or employment.

Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder

Symptoms of social anxiety disorder may begin in childhood and can affect people both emotionally and physically. People with social anxiety disorders feel very nervous and anxious when they are around other people and may find it difficult to hold a conversation. They may worry for days or weeks in advance about events that they may have to interact with other people. Individuals suffering from social phobia may also have an emotional fear of being judged, watched or embarrassed, which may lead to additional symptoms such as:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Blushing
  • Shaking
  • Confusion
  • Nausea/upset stomach
  • Diarrhea

Causes of Social Anxiety Disorder

Like other mental health conditions, the cause of social anxiety disorder is believed to be a result of a combination of genetic, environmental and psychological factors. Social anxiety disorders may run in families, however it is also believed that the link may not only be genetic, but possibly learned behavior passed on from a parent to a child. Abnormalities in the release of the natural brain chemical,serotonin, may also play a role in the development of a social anxiety disorder. Individuals with a history of physical or sexual abuse may be at a higher risk for developing a social anxiety disorder.

Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment

Psychotherapy in the form of cognitive behavior therapy is the most effective treatment for social anxiety because it guides patients to have more rational thoughts about social situations. Exposure therapy and relaxation techniques may also be used to treat individuals with social anxiety disorder. In severe cases, antianxiety or antidepressant medication may be prescribed to treat patients who do not respond to therapy alone. Individuals with social phobias may also benefit from practicing relaxation techniques on their own as well as keeping a journal to track their progress. Use of alcohol and other drugs should be avoided as these substances may cause anxiety to worsen.

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