Get Help If You Need It
Although there is a lot you can do to support yourself, its also okay to ask for help. Talking therapy can help a lot, and if you need it you can also get medication that helps.
Find a counsellor or therapist or a psychologist or a clinical psychologist and talk to your doctor about whether medication would help you. It can be helpful to ask if the health professional is trained in cognitive behaviour therapy, as this is currently the treatment of choice for social anxiety.
How Can I Care For Myself With Social Anxiety
The key things you can do to help yourself are to:
- learn about anxiety and how to manage and improve your symptoms of anxiety
- learn a controlled breathing or relaxation technique
- get help if you need it
- join a support group
- stretch yourself a small step at a time in confronting your social anxiety
- stay connected to others
- stay engaged with the rest of your life thats not affected by your anxiety
- avoid alcohol and other drugs
- be physically active
Effects Of Social Anxiety
Childhood is the time when social skills develop in preparation for the challenges of adolescence and adulthood. Children who suffer from SAD often do not develop appropriate social behaviors. As children grow with the disorder, they may become accustomed to having social fears and create a life based on avoidance.
Social anxiety disorder can have a devastating impact on your education, career success, financial independence, and personal relationships. Often it will lead to an isolated lifestyle and subsequent depression or substance abuse.
At the same time, it is unfortunate that people wait so long or never get help when this disorder is treatable. In fact, studies show that nearly 70% of individuals suffering from SAD may be successfully treated with cognitive therapy.
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Causes Of Social Anxiety Disorder
Though social anxiety disorder typically starts in childhood or adolescence, people can also develop it later in life. The causes of social anxiety are biopsychosocial, which means it can be a result of a combination of a persons biology, psychology and social environment, says Neal-Barnett.
Some people can trace their social anxiety back to a terrible, horrible, no good, very embarrassing middle school or junior incident, says Neal-Barnett. Others may have a genetic predisposition for social anxiety. can run in families.
Social situations that might create significant anxiety for someone with SAD include :
- Meeting new people
- Speaking up in a meeting
- Giving a presentation
- Being seen in public
- Speaking to authority figures
When Should I Talk To My Doctor About Social Anxiety
First, it’s important to know that you are not abnormal if you have social anxiety. Many people have it. If you have unusually high anxiety and fear about social situations, talk openly with your doctor about treatment. If left untreated, social anxiety disorder may lead to depression, drug or alcohol problems, school or work problems, and a poor quality of life.
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Prevention Of Social Anxiety Disorder
There’s no way to prevent social anxiety disorder, but these techniques can help you reduce anxiety symptoms, per the Mayo Clinic:
Get help as soon as possible. Anxiety can be more difficult to treat if you delay seeking treatment.
Start journaling. Keeping a record of your thoughts and experiences can help you and your healthcare provider figure out what’s causing your symptoms and what makes you feel better.
Figure out your priorities. Carefully manage your time and energy, and spend time doing things you enjoy.
Avoid unhealthy substance use. Using alcohol and drugs, as well as caffeine or nicotine, can cause anxiety or make it worse. But quitting can also cause anxiety. If youre addicted to any substances, look for a doctor, treatment program, or support group that can help.
Prognosis Of Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder is often successfully managed with treatment, depending on how severe your fears are. Antidepressant medicines can also be effective.
Social anxiety disorder symptoms can change over time for example, they may get worse if youre dealing with a lot of stress or increased demands. In other cases, the symptoms of social anxiety disorder may fade over time.
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Why Avoiding Anxiety Doesnt Work
One of the things that kids learn to do when they are anxious is to avoid the things that worry themmaking excuses to stay home from school or skip parties or other social events. While this might work to calm your anxiety in the short term, experts warn that hiding from your anxiety really only makes it get worse. Besides, youll still need to learn how to do those things that at some point, and practicing them helps.
Another dangerous thing about avoiding fears is that it can become a habit, so you might find yourself withdrawing more and more. This will make your anxiety worse, and other people wont understand why you are withdrawing. This can make you feel even more alone.
Tip : Face Your Fears
One of the most helpful things you can do to overcome social anxiety is to face the social situations you fear rather than avoid them. Avoidance keeps social anxiety disorder going. While avoiding nerve-wracking situations may help you feel better in the short term, it prevents you from becoming more comfortable in social situations and learning how to cope in the long term. In fact, the more you avoid a feared social situation, the more frightening it becomes.
Avoidance can also prevent you from doing things youd like to do or reaching certain goals. For example, a fear of speaking up may prevent you from sharing your ideas at work, standing out in the classroom, or making new friends.
While it may seem impossible to overcome a feared social situation, you can do it by taking it one small step at a time. The key is to start with a situation that you can handle and gradually work your way up to more challenging situations, building your confidence and coping skills as you move up the anxiety ladder.
For example, if socializing with strangers makes you anxious, you might start by accompanying an outgoing friend to a party. Once youre comfortable with that step, you might try introducing yourself to one new person, and so on. To work your way up a social anxiety ladder:
Dont try to face your biggest fear right away. Its never a good idea to move too fast, take on too much, or force things. This may backfire and reinforce your anxiety.
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Final Thoughts On Social Anxiety & Shyness
Living with social anxiety or shyness may seem frustrating and discouraging. Rest assured that you are not alone in how you feel. Getting support and seeking the right treatment can help boost your confidence. Moreover, talking to a trusted loved one or licensed professional can make a meaningful difference in how you perceive yourself and social situations.
What Is The Difference Between Having Social Anxiety Disorder And Being Shy
Anyone can experience shyness from time to time. Having social anxiety disorder consistently interferes with or prevents you from doing everyday activities such as going to the grocery store or talking to other people. Because of this, social anxiety disorder can negatively affect your education, career and personal relationships. Being shy from time to time doesnt affect these things.
In general, the three main factors that distinguish social anxiety from shyness are:
- How much it interferes with your day-to-day life.
- How intense your fear and anxiety are.
- How much you avoid certain situations.
Many people with social anxiety disorder dont try to get help or seek treatment because they think social anxiety is just part of their personality. Its important to reach out to your healthcare professional if youre experiencing ongoing and intense symptoms when in social situations.
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How Accurate Is It
This quiz is NOT a diagnostic tool. Mental health disorders can only be diagnosed by licensed healthcare professionals. If youd like to learn more about social anxiety disorder read Psycoms guide to Social Anxiety Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments.
Psycom believes assessments can be a valuable first step toward getting treatment. All too often people stop short of seeking help out of fear their concerns arent legitimate or severe enough to warrant professional intervention.
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Causes And Risk Factors Of Social Anxiety Disorder
There may be a genetic component to social anxiety disorder for some people. You’re more likely to develop the disorder if your biological parents or siblings have the condition. However, scientists still dont understand why some family members have the condition while others dont.
Research suggests that being raised by parents who engage in negative parental practices, such as being overprotective, overly anxious, or rejecting, may contribute to the development of social anxiety.
Some researchers think misreading other peoples behavior may play a role in causing social anxiety or making it worse. For example, if you think people are staring or frowning at you when they are not.
Underdeveloped social skills may also contribute to social anxiety disorder.
Researchers are also investigating the roles that stress and environmental factors may play in causing social anxiety disorder.
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Signs You Aren’t An Introvert You May Have Social Anxiety
While the population generally divides into extroverts, introverts, and ambiverts, your social inclination doesn’t usually have much if anything to do with whether or not you experience anxiety. Still, it can be hard to tell the difference between introversion and social anxiety when you’re experiencing it first hand. Therapists, however, have some concrete ways to tell the difference.
Perhaps the largest distinguishing factor between introversion and social anxiety is the element of fear. “Social anxiety is driven by fear and gets in the way of living your life,” licensed professional counselor Laura Albers, the owner of Albers Mind and Body Wellness, tells Bustle. “You will avoid or leave social situations for fear of judgment by others or desire to avoid possible embarrassment or feeling awkward. With introversion, there is simply a preference to unwind in more solo, often quiet activities.” If you think your motivations for spending time alone may be fear-based, then it is entirely possible you’re dealing with anxiety, not introversion.
It is possible for introverts to have social anxiety, too. “Of course, since close to half the population is introverted, both social anxiety and introversion can exist in one person,” Dr. Russell Morfitt, the chief psychology officer and co-founder of Learn to Live, tells Bustle. However, there are distinctive ways you can differentiate between the two.
Social Anxiety Vs Introversion
Introversion is a personality trait that captures where you get your energy from and your preference for engaging with people. When an introvert wants to relax, theyll often choose alone time over socializing. They might appear reserved or shy. But similar to shyness, the difference between SAD and introversion lies in the distinction between personality traits and mental disorders. Where an introvert might prefer solitude, they dont experience the symptoms of SAD and can often attend social situations with little trouble. For those with SAD, even if they want to attend an event, they may find themselves unable due to physical and mental symptoms.
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Finding Help For Severe Social Anxiety
Despite the depth and intensity of its symptoms, severe social anxiety is highly responsive to treatment. The first step is to receive an accurate diagnosis for the condition , and once that takes place the recovery process can begin.
And the age of diagnosis is irrelevantanyone can eventually overcome the most disabling symptoms of social anxiety disorder, if theyre willing to ask for help.
Recovery regimens for social anxiety sufferers usually include a combination of psychotherapy , medication , social and life skills training, andholistic mind-body techniques for stress management and improved emotional control. Long-term care for social anxiety is a necessity in most cases, withcounseling and therapy at the forefront of the recovery program.
For those who feel overwhelmed by severe social anxiety symptoms, and for those with co-occurring mental or behavioral health conditions, inpatient treatment programs administered by mental health professionals in a residential treatment facility can be tremendously beneficial.
In this peaceful environment, social anxiety sufferers will receive full, complete, and unconditional support from staff and peers alike.Evidence-based therapies and complementary treatment services will be provided by experts who understand the depth of suffering that severe social anxiety can cause.
Research And Statistics: How Many People Have Social Anxiety Disorder
Compared with other anxiety disorders, social anxiety disorder is fairly common. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it affects 7.1 percent of the U.S. adult population in a given year. The condition affects about 15 million American adults and is the second most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorder after specific phobia.
Social anxiety disorder usually develops early in life, typically beginning at around age 13.
Men and women are equally affected with social anxiety disorder.
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How Is Social Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed
A healthcare provider such as a clinician, psychologist, psychiatrist or therapist can diagnose a person with social anxiety disorder based on the criteria for social anxiety disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association. The criteria for social anxiety disorder under the DSM-5 includes:
- Experiencing continuing, intense fear or anxiety about social situations because you believe you may be judged negatively or humiliated by others.
- Avoiding social situations that may cause you anxiety, or enduring them with intense fear or anxiety.
- Experiencing intense anxiety that’s out of proportion to the situation.
- Experiencing anxiety and/or distress from social situations that interfere with your day-to-day life.
- Experiencing fear or anxiety in social situations that arent better explained by a medical condition, medication or substance abuse.
Your healthcare provider or another clinician will likely see if the DSM-5 criteria match your experience by asking questions about your symptoms and history. They may also ask you questions about your medications and do a physical exam to make sure your medication or a medical condition isnt causing your symptoms.
A person typically has to have had symptoms of social anxiety disorder for at least six months in order to be diagnosed.
Signs You Have Social Anxiety According To A Therapist
Many clients are surprised to learn they have a diagnosis of social anxiety. In fact, according to the NIMH, an incredible 18% of the population suffers from anxiety. Of those, 63% arent receiving treatment, and 34% of those arent receiving adequate treatment. Some sufferers assume they might only be shy, introverted or quiet others think they are awkward or lacking in social skills. Interestingly, women are 60% more likely to suffer from anxiety than men.
Here are 10 signs that what youre dealing with might be social anxiety, and not simply shyness:
1. You skip events you are interested in, only because you think you will feel awkward.
Salsa dancing sounds cool. But you cringe thinking about how stupid youll look doing it, so you dont go. Even if other people dont know how to dance either, you assume theyll look less silly than you. If an event involves any aspect of performing, youre even more scared to go.
2. Similarly, you might decide youre NOT really interested in events, because you think youll feel awkward.
This would be same as the person above, except you convince yourself salsa dancing is ridiculous in general. You know in your heart that you might find it fun, but you push that thought away and hide behind sarcasm or cynicism.
3. Whenever your appearance changes slightly, youre terrified to go out and see people.
4. You dont expect anyone to be friends with you.
5. You have a million excuses for why you dont date.
What You Can Do About It
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Diagnosing Social Anxiety Disorder
There is no medical test to check for social anxiety disorder. Your healthcare provider will diagnose social phobia from a description of your symptoms. They can also diagnose social phobia after examining certain behavioral patterns.
During your appointment, your healthcare provider will ask you to explain your symptoms. They will also ask you to talk about situations that cause your symptoms. The criteria for social anxiety disorder includes:
- a constant fear of social situations due to fear of humiliation or embarrassment
- feeling anxious or panicky before a social interaction
- a realization that your fears are unreasonable
- anxiety that disrupts daily living
How Do I Know If I Have Anxiety
Anxiety is a normal reaction to many things in life that may cause us to feel threatened, challenged or under pressure. Feeling anxious from time to time is no great cause for concern. However, if you experience persistent anxiety that feels overwhelming, unforgettable and interferes with your daily life, you may be dealing with the symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Always reach out to a mental health professional for expert advice on whether your symptoms meet the criteria for a diagnosis.
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Alternative And Complementary Therapies
Various herbal supplements have been studied as treatments for anxiety, with mixed results, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Supplements such as kava and valerian increase the risk of serious liver damage. Others, such as passionflower or theanine, may have a calming effect, but they’re often combined with other products, so their effectiveness on their own remains unclear. Talk to your doctor before taking any herbal remedies or supplements to make sure they’re safe for you and won’t interact with any medications you take.
Healthy lifestyle changes may help reduce the frequency of social anxiety attacks, including exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and having regularly scheduled meals. Reducing or avoiding the use of caffeine, some over-the-counter cold medicines, and other stimulants may also be beneficial. Joining a support group may also reduce the stress of having social anxiety.
The following tips may also help you avoid triggering your social anxiety symptoms:
- Learn stress reduction skills
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Socialize with people you feel comfortable being around