What is social anxiety disorder?
Social anxiety disorder is characterized by intense fear and anxiety surrounding social situations such as having conversations, meeting new people, or performing in front of others. Individuals with social anxiety disorder fear they will act in a way that is perceived negatively by other people, leading to embarrassment, humiliation, or rejection. Those with social anxiety often worry that they will be seen as stupid, disliked, or inadequate in public settings, and they may feel anxious before, during, and after social events. This can lead them to either avoid certain social settings or endure them with extreme anxiety, having a significant impact on their daily lives
It is important to note that social anxiety disorder is not the same as shyness. Shyness, in which someone may feel awkward or have inhibited behavior around other people, can certainly be seen in individuals with social anxiety disorder. However, people can also be shy without having the excessive fear and distress around social situations that come with social anxiety disorder. The fear and anxiety in social anxiety disorder is out of proportion to the situation, and leads to significant impairment and distress in someone’s life.
Symptoms of social anxiety disorder
The principal symptom of social anxiety disorder is excessive, irrational fear of one or multiple social situations. Individuals with social anxiety disorder may be overly self-conscious and worry excessively about what other people think of them. They may avoid certain social situations altogether, such as eating in public, talking to strangers, and speaking up at work or in class. When they do engage in social activities, those with social anxiety disorder will often experience intense fear and anxiety. They may experience physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, difficulty breathing, nausea or stomach pain, and heart palpitations; some people may even experience panic attacks. Even after leaving the situation, people with social anxiety disorder tend to focus on the negative aspects of their interactions with other.
How is social anxiety disorder diagnosed?
Social anxiety disorder is diagnosed via a clinical assessment by a mental health professional. Your Geode provider will talk with you about your experiences in social situations, assess your symptoms, and determine if you meet the criteria for the condition. These criteria include:
- Persistent and intense fear or anxiety about specific social situations due to fear of embarrassment or humiliation
- Avoidance of social situations that cause intense anxiety or fear
- Excessive anxiety that is out of proportion to the situation at hand
- Anxiety that is severe enough to interfere with daily life, such as work or school
- Fear or anxiety that is not better explained by a medical condition or substance use
If you think that you or a loved one may be experiencing social anxiety disorder, the best first step is to speak with a mental health professional. They can help you understand your symptoms, determine the correct diagnosis, and help you find anxiety treatment options.
Treatments for social anxiety disorder
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective types of psychotherapy for social anxiety disorder. CBT helps individuals identify and modify patterns of thinking that lead to anxious feelings. Exposure therapy is a common cognitive-behavioral technique used to treat social anxiety disorder. During exposure therapy, individuals are gradually exposed to the situations they fear, while being taught coping skills to help them manage their anxiety. Over time, the fear and anxiety caused by these situations becomes less intense and easier to overcome.
In addition to therapy, your provider may prescribe anti-anxiety medication to reduce symptoms of severe social anxiety. While medications are not a cure for social anxiety disorder, they can help reduce symptoms and improve your quality of life. There are several different types of anti-anxiety medication, so it is important to work with your provider to find the right treatment for you. Keep in mind that medication may take some time to work, and not every medication will work well for every individual or situation.
Don’t let social anxiety disorder control your life
If you or someone you know is struggling with social anxiety disorder, do not hesitate to seek professional help. At Geode Health, we have experienced providers who specialize in treating social anxiety disorder and are dedicated to helping you feel better. With appropriate treatment and support, you can gain relief from social anxiety, become more confident, and take control of your life.
If you are in crisis and in need of immediate support
Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or text the Crisis Text Line by texting HELLO to 741741