I am not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations,nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine. – Fritz Perls

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Phobia / Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder, or Social Phobia, is a mental health condition wherein a person has an intense, persistent fear of being watched, judged, humiliated, and rejected by others. A person with social anxiety disorder feels symptoms of anxiety or fear in certain or all social situations, such as meeting new people, dating, being on a job interview, answering a question in class, or having to talk to a cashier in a store.

Doing everyday things in front of people, such as eating or drinking in public or using a public restroom, causes anxiety or fear. Fear and anxiety lead to avoidance that can negatively affect work, school, and other day-to-day activities. It can even make it hard to make and keep friends.

Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder

Emotional Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder include:

  • Fear of situations in which you may be judged
  • Fear of embarrassing or humiliating yourself
  • Fear of interacting or talking with strangers
  • Fear that others will notice that you look anxious
  • Anxiety in anticipation of a feared activity or event
  • Fear of physical symptoms that cause you embarrassment, such as blushing, sweating, trembling or having a shaky voice

Physical Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder include:

  • Blushing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Muscle tension or trembling
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Upset stomach, nausea, and/or diarrhea
  • Inability to catch breath
  • “Out-of-body” sensations

Behavioral symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder include:

  • Avoiding interactions with unfamiliar people
  • Avoiding social gatherings
  • Avoiding situations where you might be the center of attention
  • Avoiding using public restrooms
  • Avoiding eating in front of others
  • Avoiding work or school

Risk Factors for Social Anxiety Disorder

The exact cause of Social Anxiety Disorder is not fully known, but several factors — including personality, genetics, and environment or experiences — appear to contribute to its development.

  • Genetics: Having parents or other family members with Anxiety Disorders can increase the likelihood that a person will develop social anxiety disorder.
  • Environment / Experiences: Social Anxiety Disorder may be a learned behavior. The condition may develop after experiencing an embarrassing social situation. There may also be an association between Social Anxiety Disorder and parents who model anxious behavior. Controlling or overprotective parenting may also be a factor
  • Temperament. A person who is shy or timid, who is withdrawn or restrained when facing new situations, may be at risk for Social Anxiety Disorder.

Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder

Psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as “talk therapy” or counseling, is a vital component of treating anxiety disorders. There are a variety of specific psychotherapeutic approaches that can be explored in the treatment of anxiety disorders, including:

Medication does not cure anxiety disorders but can help relieve their symptoms. The types of medications used to treat the symptoms of anxiety disorders include:

  • Anti-Anxiety Medications
  • Antidepressants

Every individual will react to various medications in their own way, and several different medications, or combinations of medications, may be tried before finding one that improves symptoms with manageable side effects.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms and wish to seek treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder, please contact me for an evaluation.

Also see Anxiety Disorders & Therapy »