What About Shyness Or Quietness
While shyness and general quietness arent mutually exclusive from social anxiety disorder, one doesnt always mean the other. Many people are what we would consider shy or quiet, and those normal traits can lead to some anxiety.
People who are shy might be asked to speak up or just be themselves, and this social feedback could make them think that something is wrong. Its normal and natural to be introverted or shy, so long as youre not shuttered by an underlying feeling of intense anxiety and fear around social situations.
Social anxiety disorder doesnt have to do with your personality traits so much as your internal experience surrounding social interactions.
That intense anxiety will likely interrupt your ability to conduct life in the way you otherwise would. Lets take a look at some of the symptoms that social anxiety disorder produces that prevent one from living life freely.
How Social Anxiety Presents In Adults
In adults, social anxiety may occur in a broad variety of social settings or might be localized to specific settings. A social anxiety disorder diagnosis can sometimes result in overt forms of avoidance, like a person who often cancels plans because of anxiety, but is sometimes less obvious. Some people might have orchestrated their lives carefully so that their social anxiety is not triggered until they find themselves in a new or unfamiliar social situation. For this reason, social anxiety may peak during times of stress or transition.
The Effect Of Parenting Styles On Social Anxiety
Extensive research has confirmed a connection between negative parenting styles and anxiety disorders, including social anxiety disorder.
When parents are overcontrolling, quick to criticize, reluctant to show affection, or overly concerned with the opinions of others, a childs self-image and impression of the world can be shaped by words and actions associated with these characteristics.
Children and adolescents may become more fearful and less trustful of other people when they are raised in this environment, and their self-esteem and self-confidence may be negatively impacted as well. In these instances, parents dont realize their actions are harmful, but their focus on the negative inadvertently can set their children up for trouble later in life.
Social anxiety disorder is usually not diagnosed until sufferers reach adulthood, but symptoms tend to first manifest in late childhood or early adolescence, which bolsters the idea that parental influences are playing a formational role in the development of the disorder.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Social Anxiety Disorder
Just because you occasionally get nervous in social situations doesnt mean you have social anxiety disorder or social phobia. Many people feel shy or self-conscious on occasion, yet it doesnt get in the way of their everyday functioning. Social anxiety disorder, on the other hand, does interfere with your normal routine and causes tremendous distress.
For example, its perfectly normal to get the jitters before giving a speech. But if you have social anxiety, you might worry for weeks ahead of time, call in sick to get out of it, or start shaking so bad during the speech that you can hardly speak.
Emotional signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder:
- Excessive self-consciousness and anxiety in everyday social situations
- Intense worry for days, weeks, or even months before an upcoming social situation
- Extreme fear of being watched or judged by others, especially people you dont know
- Fear that youll act in ways that will embarrass or humiliate yourself
- Fear that others will notice that youre nervous
Physical signs and symptoms:
- Avoiding social situations to a degree that limits your activities or disrupts your life
- Staying quiet or hiding in the background in order to escape notice and embarrassment
- A need to always bring a buddy along with you wherever you go
- Drinking before social situations in order to soothe your nerves
Causes And Risk Factors
The causes of social anxiety disorder are complex. They are likely to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Social anxiety disorder typically starts early in life, during a personâs adolescence or teenage years, but it can affect people of all ages. The condition is more common in females than males.
Possible causes and risk factors include:
- Genetics: Anxiety disorders can run in families, so there may be a genetic component at play.
- Adverse life events: Stressful or traumatic events â such as abuse, violence, the death of a loved one, or a prolonged illness â may increase the risk of an anxiety disorder. Previous bullying, humiliation, or rejection can also increase the risk.
- Parenting styles: Some
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From Severe Social Anxiety To High
The symptoms of some with high-functioning social anxiety were always mild or moderate. What theyve experienced is more stressful and life-altering than normal shyness, but their social anxiety was never powerful or intimidating enough to seriously hamper their ability to build relationships or achieve their goals.
However, the situation for many high-functioning social anxiety sufferers is different. In childhood, during adolescence and into young adulthood, their social anxiety symptoms were strong and persistent, limiting their activities in many ways and inhibiting them in their search for happiness and fulfillment. Only over time were they able to get a handle on their social anxiety, learning to cope with it well enough to finally break out of their self-imposed social exile.
There are a number of reasons why some people overcome the worst of their social anxiety symptoms. Most men and women who recover from social anxiety disorder do so only after seeking treatment, often at a residential mental health treatment facility. With a combination of psychotherapy and medication, most social anxiety sufferers can eventually learn to manage their symptoms, which may decline in intensity if treatment continues for an extended period.
Whiletreatment for social anxiety disorder is vitally important, there are often other factors involved that help sufferers make the transition from severe to high-functioning social anxiety. Some of these factors include:
Social Anxiety Disorder Is The Third Largest Psychological Problem In The United States Today Millions Of People Quietly Endure This Pain Every Day Believing There Is No Hope For Them Getting Better
A man finds it difficult to walk down the street because hes self-conscious and feels that people are watching him from their windows. Worse, he may run into a person on the sidewalk and be forced to say hello to them. Hes not sure he can do that. His voice will catch, his “hello” will sound weak, and the other person will know hes frightened. More than anything else, he doesnt want anyone to know that hes afraid. He keeps his eyes safely away from anyone elses gaze and prays he can make it home without having to talk to anyone.
A woman hates to stand in line in the grocery store because shes afraid that everyone is watching her. She knows that its not really true, but she cant shake the feeling. While she is shopping, she is conscious of the fact that people might be staring at her from the big mirrors on the inside front of the ceiling. Now, she has to talk to the person whos checking out the groceries. She tries to smile, but her voice comes out weakly. Shes sure shes making a fool of herself. Her self-consciousness and her anxiety rise to the roof.
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Tip : Focus On Others Not Yourself
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.
How To Diagnose Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder is defined by a persistent fear or overwhelming phobia of social situations, or situations with other people. The condition goes beyond shyness or feeling introverted, and it can be harmful to a persons ability to enjoy life. Everyday activities like going to the grocery store, talking on the phone, or work meetings can lead to intense anxiety.
Although this condition can be disruptive to daily functioning, it is one of the most common anxiety disorders. An estimated 19.2 million people in the United States suffer from social anxiety disorder. It typically begins around adolescence, and it is more common in women than men.
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Environmental Influences And Stressful Life Experiences As A Cause Of Social Anxiety
Stressful life events and trauma during childhood can influence the development of social anxiety problems. Some of the exposures known to have predictive value for severe social anxiety include:
- Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
- Family conflicts, domestic violence, and divorce
- Death of or desertion by a parent
- Maternal stress during pregnancy or infancy
Traumatic experiences can reinforce the idea that the world is a scary and unpredictable place, and it can be especially shocking and disheartening to kids to discover that their caregivers are capable of selfish or hurtful behavior.
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Diagnosing And Managing Social Anxiety
Social anxiety disorder consists of a marked and persistent fear of social situations where there is the potential for being negatively evaluated by others. Exposure to the feared situations will produce significant anxiety and distress, which will either be endured, or, where possible , avoided, both of which contribute to increasing future anxiety. This level of social anxiety generally interferes with social and occupational functioning, and commonly the person understands the fear is out of proportion to the event.
- Social anxiety disorder generally starts in early adolescence, and time to presentation can be upwards of 15 years, thus the social anxiety can be fairly entrenched, so it is really helpful if you can catch it early and get the person some timely therapeutic assistance.
- There can be frequent use of alcohol and drugs to manage symptoms and such usage may have reached problematic levels. If so, consider referral to Community Alcohol and Drug Services first for treatment of the alcohol and drug-related difficulties before commencing social anxiety treatment.
- Benzodiazepines are not recommended for the treatment of social anxiety.
- Cognitivebehaviour therapy is currently the treatment of choice for social anxiety disorder. This can be delivered by a trained individual therapist, and there are a number of online tools, books, and treatment manuals. The following are recommended:
- a workbook such as Shy no longer
- an online programme like This Way Up.
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What You Should Know
This self-check mostly asks about fears of being judged negatively by others. You may have other symptoms that are related to social anxiety. The results from self-checks are not always a good reflection of peoples experiences. The information provided here should not be the only information you use to make decisions about your mental health.
Social anxiety is very connected to thoughts around how people view us and judgments they may have. You can learn how to spot when your thoughts are drifting toward these patterns and ways to shift these thoughts. This can help keep social anxiety in check.
What Does Social Anxiety Disorder Look Like
The majority of us experience anxiety or social anxiety, to a degree. Most of us get nervous about presentations or speeches, and we can all feel a little awkward in a large group of new people, for example. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re suffering from social anxiety.
So how do you distinguish between normal amounts of anxiety and a disorder? “Like all mental health disorders, has to cause distress that interferes with your day-to-day life or your functioning in some aspect of your life socially, at work, or in your relationships,” Dr. Gold explains. She adds that on top of the social anxiety being all-encompassing, it has to last for six or months to qualify as a true disorder.
Dr. Gold adds that typically, the level of anxiety you feel is “grossly out of proportion to the situation,” and will typically happen every time someone encounters that situation. For example, symptoms can interfere with activities like ordering food, returning items at a store, or speaking on the phone, says Means.
She adds that it can even affect your “ability to eat or drink in front of others, write on a blackboard if you’re a student, use a public restroom, or speak publicly.”
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Tip : Make An Effort To Be More Social
Actively seeking out supportive social environments is another effective way of challenging your fears and overcoming social anxiety. The following suggestions are good ways to start interacting with others in positive ways:
Take a social skills class or an assertiveness training class. These classes are often offered at local adult education centers or community colleges.
Volunteer doing something you enjoy, such as walking dogs in a shelter, or stuffing envelopes for a campaignanything that will give you an activity to focus on while you are also engaging with a small number of like-minded people.
Work on your communication skills. Good relationships depend on clear, emotionally-intelligent communication. If you find that you have trouble connecting to others, learning the basic skills of emotional intelligence can help.
Dont Beat Yourself Up After A Presentation
We are the hardest on ourselves and its good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.
You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.
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