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How Does Social Anxiety Develop

Posttraumatic Symptomatology And Imagery In The Aetiology Of Sad

Good News For People With Social Anxiety!

Aversive social/peer experiences may be experienced as traumatic, and thus have been found to trigger posttraumatic symptoms among SAD individuals, including intrusive re-experiencing, avoidance, negative alterations in cognitions and mood, and hyperarousal symptoms . Erwin et al. found that a third of SAD individuals in their sample would have met criteria for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders posttraumatic stress disorder if the socially traumatic event satisfied criterion A . In contrast to controls, SAD patients in this study reported reacting to memories of past socially aversive events with hyperarousal and avoidance . SAD patients also endorsed significant re-experiencing symptoms in response to memories of socially traumatic events , and the authors suggest that these symptoms may be distorted recollection of the past event, potentially contributing to distorted beliefs and interfering with the processing of socially stressful events .

Treatment Implications And Emerging Evidence

Cognitive therapy for social anxiety disorder in adults is comprised of a series of techniques designed to reverse the processes specified in the Clark and Wells cognitive model . The techniques are listed in Table . Broadly, the treatment adopts an approach which encourages the patient to discover for him or herself how their social anxiety is maintained. This is achieved through a focus on experiential exercises for example, a behavioural experiment is undertaken early on in therapy to demonstrate the unhelpful effects of self-focused attention and safety behaviours. Similarly, patients learn to focus their attention externally through a series of practical exercises. We would suggest that this method, of fostering cognitive change through action, is particularly well suited to adolescents, and we expect that many of the core elements of treatment could be employed successfully with adolescents with modest adaptations.

Whilst the evidence base is extremely small, the results converge to suggest cognitive therapy may have important promise for adolescents with social anxiety disorder. Notably, although the trial of Ingul et al. did not test the full treatment, it demonstrated specific treatment effects.

Tips For Parents Of Socially Anxious Infants And Toddlers

If an infant shows signs of social anxiety, it can help to model calm, self-soothing behavior. Modeling healthy reactions in social settings can help teach young children these behaviors. In addition, giving toddlers a chance to practice before new situations may help them feel more confident. For example, a parent might invite them to practice show-and-tell before the big day. Reading books or watching movies that depict confident young children can give watching toddlers a hero to mimic.

Instead of feeding into fearful behaviors, it can be more helpful when parents give enthusiastic praise when toddlers try something new. Explaining a childs anxiety to any caregivers, teachers, and other parents will help them understand their behavior. This can help inform how they act around the child. Caregivers can help by fostering positive interactions. This can reinforce the idea that others do not have to be a source of anxiety.

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Emotional Abuse And Neglect

Compared to other key trauma domains , SAD has been most strongly related to childhood emotional abuse and neglect . This is consistent with reports that parents of SAD individuals are over-controlling, less warm, and more rejecting . Among SAD individuals, emotional maltreatment has been associated with greater severity of social anxiety symptomatology and related disability, higher trait anxiety and depression, as well as poorer functioning, resilience, quality of life, and self-esteem . Furthermore, emotional abuse has been found to increase risk of peer rejection, which is frequently a key precipitant for SAD onset .

The Connection With Learning And Thinking Differences

Social anxiety disorder: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

Kids with learning and thinking differences can struggle with unstructured social interaction. They may get confused by the words people are using. They may misread body language or other subtle social cues.

As a result, they may get anxious and withdraw from the situation. Its social anxiety, but its caused or made worse because of the underlying learning or thinking differences. Here are a few examples:

  • ADHD: A child may blurt out something inappropriate. A negative reaction from classmates may lead that child to start avoiding group conversations.

  • Dyslexia: A child may try to avoid reading aloud in class by asking to go to the bathroom or to the school nurse. Separation from class can reinforce the fear of reading aloud. The longer kids with reading issues go without effective reading interventions, the more likely they are to develop social anxiety.

Each time kids are in a situation where they dont believe theyll be successful, their brain interprets that as a threat and says, Lets get out of here. Their fear centers activate. The part of their brain that controls their executive functions shuts down. Executive functioning skills take a back seat to fear and become less efficient.

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Is Social Anxiety Treatable

Yes, social anxiety can be well-managed with the various treatment modalities available. The first step toward getting rid of this disorder is seeking help. It is alarming that fewer than five percent of people with social anxiety disorder seek treatment.

The doctor may treat any underlying health condition that may be causing anxiety symptoms. Generally, social anxiety is managed with psychotherapy, medications or a combination of both. The key to effective management of social anxiety is seeking timely treatment from a qualified health professional.

Ways Children Learn Social Anxiety

  • Direct conditioning: Did you forget your lines in the class play? Did other kids make fun of you or were you the victim of constant teasing or bullying? While it is not a necessary trigger, going through an early traumatic event may have an impact on the development of social anxiety, sometimes years later.
  • Observational learning: If you did not experience a traumatic event yourself, did you see someone else in a traumatic social situation? For those already vulnerable to the disorder, this may have the same impact as going through the situation firsthand.
  • Information transfer: Fearful and socially anxious parents unknowingly transfer verbal and non-verbal information to their children about the dangers of social situations. If your mother worries a lot about what other people think of her, chances are you have developed some of this same anxiety yourself.

Your upbringing can also impact the likelihood that you will develop SAD. You are more likely to develop the disorder if:

  • As a child, you were not exposed to enough social situations and were not allowed to develop appropriate social skills.
  • One or both of your parents was rejecting, controlling, critical, or overprotective. Children that do not form a proper attachment to their primary caregiver are at greater risk because they can’t calm and soothe themselves when in stressful situations.

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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.

Signs And Symptoms Of Social Anxiety And Depression

Phobias – specific phobias, agoraphobia, & social phobia

In many instances, people suffering from more than one mental health disorder will have trouble receiving an accurate diagnosis, since the symptoms of such conditions often overlap.

But depression and social anxiety disorder are distinct illnesses with differing symptoms, and not enough commonality for one to disguise the presence of the other. Social anxiety sufferers experiencing the onset of depression know that something has changed, and not for the better.

Social Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

Social anxiety disorder produces both physical and emotional/psychological symptoms, which may occur before, during, or immediately after social encounters. Social anxiety is sometimes referred to by the alternate label social phobia, which is appropriate given the depth and intensity of the fear that people with social anxiety disorder experience in most social situations.

The physical symptoms of social phobia clearly indicate the presence of strong anxiety, and they include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Despair, or feelings of hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

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Why Do People With Social Anxiety Become Depressed

Social phobia symptoms often prevent people with social anxiety from making friends, pursuing romantic relationships, applying for jobs they want, speaking up for themselves if theyve been mistreated, volunteering with organizations that support causes they care about, or doing a thousand other things theyd like to do if not for the overwhelming nature of their social anxiety.

In these circumstances, the onset of depression is a predictable outcome.

If a person experiences the worst social phobia symptoms for an extended period, their frustration, disappointment, and feelings of helplessness can push them to the breaking point. After years of feeling bad, they may finally stop feeling anything at all. The depression functions almost like a protective mechanism, taking the edge off emotions that are too painful to bear for any longer.

There are several factors involved with severe social anxiety that may make social anxiety disorder sufferers vulnerable to depression:

While depression and social anxiety may develop independently in some cases, most social anxiety disorder sufferers recognize depression as a response to unhappy life circumstances.

Socializing Social Challenges And Teen Substance Abuse

Teens with social anxiety are not the only ones at increased risk for substance abuse. Many types of teenage social challenges are associated with drug and alcohol use. In fact, a review study published in the journal Psychopharmacology concluded that antisocial personality traits in adolescents are a prominent risk factor for substance abuse.

Moreover, a study using laboratory rats showed that social isolation among adolescents leads to quicker drug addiction. The rats in the study were isolated from their peers during the adolescent period of their development.

Subsequently, they became much more likely than non-isolated rats to show a preference for amphetamine and alcohol. In addition, it took longer for them to break the addiction when they were no longer exposed to the drugs and alcohol.

The researchers concluded that similar changes in the brain might occur with socially isolated adolescents. Therefore, such teens would be at increased risk for substance use disorder.

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How Common Is Social Anxiety Disorder

There are no UK epidemiological surveys that specifically report data on social anxiety disorder in adults however, the prevalence of social anxiety disorder has been included in large general population surveys in other western European countries, the US and Australia. Prevalence estimates vary, with much of the variability probably being due to differences in the instruments used to ascertain diagnosis. However, it is clear that social anxiety disorder is one of the most common of all the anxiety disorders. Lifetime prevalence rates of up to 12% have been reported compared with lifetime prevalence estimates for other anxiety disorders of 6% for generalised anxiety disorder, 5% for panic disorder, 7% for post-traumatic stress disorder and 2% for obsessive-compulsive disorder . Twelve-month prevalence rates as high as 7% have been reported for social anxiety disorder . Using strict criteria and face-to-face interviews in the US, the lifetime and yearly prevalence figures are halved to 5% and 3%, respectively , but it is still more common than the major autoimmune conditions put together . Data from the National Comorbidity Survey reveals that social anxiety disorder is the third most common psychiatric condition after major depression and alcohol dependence .

What Is Social Anxiety Disorder Or Social Phobia

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Many people get nervous or self-conscious on occasion, like when giving a speech or interviewing for a new job. But social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is more than just shyness or occasional nerves. Social anxiety disorder involves intense fear of certain social situationsespecially situations that are unfamiliar or in which you feel youll be watched or evaluated by others. These situations may be so frightening that you get anxious just thinking about them or go to great lengths to avoid them, disrupting your life in the process.

Underlying social anxiety disorder is the fear of being scrutinized, judged, or embarrassed in public. You may be afraid that people will think badly of you or that you wont measure up in comparison to others. And even though you probably realize that your fears of being judged are at least somewhat irrational and overblown, you still cant help feeling anxious. But no matter how painfully shy you may be and no matter how bad the butterflies, you can learn to be comfortable in social situations and reclaim your life.

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Dealing With Social Phobia

People with social phobia can learn to manage fear, develop confidence and coping skills, and stop avoiding things that make them anxious. But it’s not always easy. Overcoming social phobia means getting up the courage it takes to go beyond what’s comfortable, little by little.

Here’s who can support and guide people in overcoming social phobia:

  • Therapists can help people recognize the physical sensations caused by fightflight and teach them to interpret these sensations more accurately. Therapists can help people create a plan for facing social fears one by one, and help them build the skills and confidence to do it. This includes practicing new behaviors. Sometimes, but not always, medications that reduce anxiety are used as part of the treatment for social phobia.
  • Family or friends are especially important for people who are dealing with social phobia. The right support from a few key people can help those with social phobia gather the courage to go outside their comfort zone and try something new. Putdowns, lectures, criticisms, and demands to change don’t help and just make a person feel bad. Having social phobia isn’t a person’s fault and isn’t something anyone chooses. Instead, friends and family can encourage people with social phobia to pick a small goal to aim for, remind them to go for it, and be there when they might feel discouraged. Good friends and family are there to celebrate each small success along the way.

Genetic Causes Of Social Anxiety Disorder

People with a parent or parents whove suffered from social anxiety disorder have a 30-40 percent greater likelihood of developing the condition themselves. However, it is impossible to know how much of the parent-child social anxiety association is based on genetics and how much is based on parenting style, which is naturally affected by the presence of the disorder.

Recent research into specific genetic markers for social anxiety have focused on changes in a gene called SLCGA4, which is involved in the transport of the neurotransmitter serotonin, a chemical that can help soothe nerves and stabilize moods. Both shortages and excesses of serotonin have been linked to social anxiety symptoms, and people with social anxiety disorder struggle to produce serotonin consistently and without fluctuation.

Aberrations in the performance of the gene SLCGA4 appear to be linked to this problem, and these faulty genes can be passed from parents to children.

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