Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is a problem that originates from the fear of making mistakes. The person with SA disorder will have unreasonable fear that he/she is being watched by others and will develop irrational fear of social situations. These people are always self conscious and worried about being criticized by others. People with SA disorder will often avoid being in social situations and if conditions compel them to take part in social events, they would develop an “anticipatory anxiety” probably weeks or even months before the occasion. They live in the fear of something wrong is going to happen. Many people are fully aware of their irrational fear (which is meaningless) but they don’t have the courage to overcome it.

SA disorder is called as “social phobia” which is linked with other type of mental issues like panic disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder. People with social phobia will have problems in interacting with people, and working in front of others. The fear becomes so intense that it seriously interferes with their routine activities and creates problems in relationships. These people are afraid to do even common things like using public toilet or eating in a restaurant etc. They imagine that somebody would criticize them for their behavior or mistakes and avoid such situations.

Causes :

No one factor can be limited to cause social anxiety disorder. It is caused by multiple factors like psychological, social and biological factors. For some people, SA disorder is hereditary and runs in families. It is believed to occur due to abnormal functions in the brain that is responsible for fear or stressful events.

For some people, SA disorder can develop due to embarrassing events in childhood and humiliating events in society during adolescence. Children with this disorder would have suffered and neglected by peers or bullied by others. Children who are over-protected may not have the opportunity to learn proper social skills and in later stage can develop this disorder.

Symptoms :

Some of the signs and symptoms of SA disorder are given below:-

  • Developing intense anxiety while taking part in social situations
  • Feeling very self conscious in front of others
  • Worried and anxious about particular event even days or weeks before
  • Avoid taking part in social events
  • Having unreasonable fear of getting criticized
  • Having hard time to maintain friendship
  • Developing physiological problems like trembling, sweating and blushing, shaking while attending social situations

Social anxiety disorder is ranked 2nd in general anxiety disorders and is ranked 3rd among various types of mental disorders. More than 15 million Americans are believed to have SA disorder. It begins during early childhood or adolescence mostly, but it can develop during adulthood also. More women develop SA disorder than men.

Diagnosis :

A person is said to have SA disorder if he/she has any of the above symptoms in the past 6 months. Parents can observe the behavior of their children in social situations and detect any such activities. Your doctor may conduct some physical tests to rule out any other physical problem. He may refer your child to psychiatrist who will evaluate SA disorder based on designed interview and various assessment tools.

Treatment :

Social Anxiety disorder can be fully treated and cured. But the rate of recovery will be fast if diagnosed in early stages. Your therapist would use a specialized method called cognitive behavior therapy for treating the symptoms. The person will be able to slowly overcome the fear and anxiety with regard to social events and situations. He would create artificial conditions resembling social setup and teach different ways of overcoming his fear. The therapist will also make your child learn social skills.

Medications are recommended to treat people with intense anxiety or depression associated with SA disorder. But you cannot expect results overnight and it may take several months or years to cope with anxiety prone situations. Social phobia can also be treated with monoamine oxidase inhibitor kind of drugs. These drugs can cause side effects and hence you have to visit your doctor regularly to report any changes.

Prognosis :

The outlook for SA disorder is satisfactory. Many people are able to live normal life and take part in social situations after therapy.

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