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What Causes Social Anxiety Disorder

Tip : Focus On Others Not Yourself

Social Anxiety Disorder – causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, pathology

When were in a social situation that makes us nervous, many of us tend to get caught up in our anxious thoughts and feelings. You may be convinced that everyone is looking at you and judging you. Your focus is on your bodily sensations, hoping that by paying extra close attention you can better control them. But this excessive self-focus just makes you more aware of how nervous youre feeling, triggering even more anxiety! It also prevents you from fully concentrating on the conversations around you or the performance youre giving.

Switching from an internal to an external focus can go a long way toward reducing social anxiety. This is easier said than done, but you cant pay attention to two things at once. The more you concentrate on whats happening around you, the less youll be affected by anxiety.

Focus your attention on other people, but not on what theyre thinking of you! Instead, do your best to engage them and make a genuine connection.

Remember that anxiety isnt as visible as you think. And even if someone notices that youre nervous, that doesnt mean theyll think badly of you. Chances are other people are feeling just as nervous as youor have done in the past.

Really listen to what is being said not to your own negative thoughts.

Focus on the present moment, rather than worrying about what youre going to say or beating yourself up for a flub thats already passed.

Treatment And Medication Options For Social Anxiety Disorder

Treatment for social anxiety disorder is intended to help you function in your daily life. The two most common types of treatment for social anxiety disorder are psychotherapy , medications, or both, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Psychotherapy helps most people with social anxiety disorder, because it teaches you how to change negative thoughts about yourself. You also learn skills that help you gain confidence in social situations.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective type of psychotherapy for anxiety, and it works just as well whether its conducted individually or in groups.

In exposure-based cognitive behavioral therapy, you work up to facing the situations you fear most, little by little. This can help you develop the confidence you need to cope with anxiety-provoking social situations. You may also engage in social skills training or role-playing to practice your social skills.

CBT may even create positive changes in the brain. A study published in August 2017 in Molecular Psychiatry found that when those with social anxiety disorder participated in 10 weeks of CBT group therapy, it reduced the size of parts of the brain that process and regulate emotions. Scientists call this process “normalizing,” and the changes were more pronounced when the therapy was most successful.

What Causes Anxiety And What Are The Symptoms

Stressful events: Stress at the workplace, loss of a loved one, or troubled relationships, can also trigger symptoms of anxiety. Health issues: Ailments such as thyroid problems, asthma, diabetes or a heart disease can also cause anxiety. People suffering from depression can also develop symptoms of anxiety disorders.

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Negative Beliefs And Maladaptive Behavior That Cause Social Anxiety

To protect themselves from various threats they perceive, people sometimes develop a system of negative beliefs and maladaptive behaviors that cause social anxiety. People with social anxiety tend to have at least a few of the following thoughts when ruminating on upcoming social events or situations, according to Klimaite, Smerling and therapist John L. Clarke, who studied psychology with the father of Cognitive Therapy, Aaron Beck:

  • Im going to do something embarrassing.
  • I am not going to belong.
  • I am not likeable.
  • People are going to hate me.
  • Im going to pass out.
  • People are going to be able to tell Im nervous.
  • I wont know what to say.
  • I have nothing to offer.
  • Nobody will want to be my friend.
  • I am going to say something stupid.
  • Something is wrong with me.

Sometimes these thoughts are connected to self-esteem. When people feel like they are not worth much, its easy for them to believe they cant offer anything in a social situation. It isnt only fear of social criticism. They might not feel like they deserve the benefits of social interactions that will go well.

To negate the risk of these anxieties, people with social anxiety avoid many interactions with others. This strategy may allow them to reduce symptoms and put off confronting their social anxiety, but it comes at the cost of limiting how full their lives are. It also makes it difficult for them to handle social situations when they need to.

What Causes Social Anxiety

Does Anxiety Cause Voices In Your Head

Like most other mental health disorders, social anxiety disorder rarely has a single cause. Contributing risk factors include genetics, brain chemistry, or trauma. Individuals who have experienced long-term stress, chemical imbalances, or a first-degree family history of anxiety or other mental health disorders may have an increased risk of having SAD.

Social anxiety disorder usually starts when a person is young, often emerging in adolescence or early adulthood. SAD may have psychological contributors – that is, it may develop as a result of experiencing or witnessing traumatic social experiences in the past. Some healthcare professions also attribute the development of SAD to parenting styles, stating that overprotective parenting styles may keep children from learning necessary social skills.

Without treatment, social anxiety can continue indefinitely. People with a social anxiety disorder may be diagnosed based on specific or broad social fears. Specific situations can include eating in front of another person, speaking in front of a crowd, or talking to a stranger. Broader situations can include speaking to anyone other than a family member, leaving the house, etc.

Women and men are equally likely to develop a social anxiety disorder. It often co-occurs with other mental health disorders, like depression, OCD, or other anxiety disorders.

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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.

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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When To Know If You Have Social Anxiety Disorder

You may be exhibiting signs of social anxiety disorder if you find yourself: ). Social anxiety tends to develop early in life. In fact, about 50% of those who have it are diagnosed by age 11, while 80% are diagnosed by age 20 . People with social anxiety may appear extremely shy and quiet in groups or when meeting new people.

Increase Social Situations Gradually

What causes Social Anxiety, Shyness & Avoidant Personality Disorder?

People with social anxiety disorder often avoid social situations where they may trigger their feelings of anxiety. Although this reduces anxiety in the short-term, avoidance can make anxiety much worse in the long-term.

If possible â and with the help of a therapist, if necessary â the person can gradually increase their exposure to the situations they fear. This creates space for them to have a positive experience with the situation.

Having positive social experiences can boost a personâs confidence and reduce their anxiety or reassure them that they can overcome it.

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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.

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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How Does Social Anxiety Disorder Effect The Routine Of A Person

idea of social fear goes back as early as 400 B.C. where Hippocrates described the overly shy person as someone who thinks every man observes him. Even Charles Darwin wrote about the physiology concerning blushing and shyness. The psychiatric term social phobia wasnt used until the early 1900s. In 1994, the fourth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published and the term social anxiety disorder replaced social phobia. Social anxiety disorder

Understanding The Causes Of Social Anxiety Disorder

How to understand social anxiety

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

If you have been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder , you may wonder what caused you to develop the illness. Rather than there being a single causative factor, it is likely a complex interplay of variables that result in the disorder.

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Social Anxiety Disorder : Causes Symptoms And Treatments Essay

Social Anxiety Disorder: Causes, Symptoms and TreatmentsThe feeling of anxiety is familiar to all of us and we all experienced some anxiety and fear at least once in our life. Whether that was the first day in a new workplace, the first day in college, or before an important meeting, we felt that we were really anxious and nervous. From the evolutionary perspective, the conservation of fear and anxiety among some species is a good indication that those emotions are highly important for survival

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Social Anxiety Disorder

When having to perform in front of or be around others, people with social anxiety disorder tend to:

  • Blush, sweat, tremble, feel a rapid heart rate, or feel their mind going blank
  • Feel nauseous or sick to their stomach
  • Show a rigid body posture, make little eye contact, or speak with an overly soft voice
  • Find it scary and difficult to be with other people, especially those they dont already know, and have a hard time talking to them even though they wish they could
  • Be very self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed and awkward
  • Be very afraid that other people will judge them
  • Stay away from places where there are other people

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When Does It Happen

Anyone with social anxiety disorder can experience it in different ways. But here are some common situations that people tend to have trouble with:

  • Talking to strangers
  • Eating in front of other people
  • Going to school or work
  • Starting conversations

Some of these situations might not cause a problem for you. For example, giving a speech may be easy, but going to a party might be a nightmare. Or you could be great at one-on-one conversations but not at stepping into a crowded classroom.

All socially anxious people have different reasons for dreading certain situations. But in general, itâs an overwhelming fear of:

  • Being judged by others in social situations
  • Being embarrassed or humiliated — and showing it by blushing, sweating, or shaking
  • Accidentally offending someone
  • Being the center of attention

Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment

Causes of Social Anxiety Disorder

Over 35% of those suffering from social anxiety disorder report that they experienced signs and symptoms of the disorder for over 10 years before seeking treatment. This may be due to the isolating nature of the affliction – sufferers may find it difficult to ask for or find help.

Social anxiety disorder is generally treated with psychotherapy, counseling, or medication. Many professionals recommend a synthesis of both therapy and medication and emphasize that medication alone may not be effective for treating the cause of the affliction. Supplementing these methods with alternative treatments like meditation, mindfulness training, or yoga may facilitate recovery.


  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is currently the gold standard for treating anxiety disorders, SAD included. This psychiatric therapy technique encourages the patient to learn the connection between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This understanding can allow the patient to visualize and therefore control the underlying cause of their anxiety.


  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors : A frequently used anti-depressant medication for SAD, SSRIs include fluoxetime , sertraline , citalopram , escitalopram , paroxetine , and fluvoxamine .
  • Benzodiazepines: A frequently used sedative and anti-anxiety medication for SAD, benzodiazepines include diazepam , lorazepam , clonazepam , and alprazolam .


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