Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) - Social Phobia

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) or social phobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by extreme fear in getting involved in social situations. This fear causes considerable distress and disability functions in one’s daily life activities. The fear comes from perceived or actual scrutiny from others.

Complex interaction between the environment and genes raises this disorder.

Some other possible causes of social anxiety disorder are brain structure and inherited traits. Amygdala, a part inside the brain, is thought to play some role in controlling fear responses.

A person with SAD shows many symptoms physically, emotionally, and in behavior. Although this can turn into a more serious condition, it can be overcome by using many techniques of treatment like medication, cognitive behavioral therapies, or individual self-help practices that can be done whenever and wherever the patient is comfortable.

Image Credit: Photographee.eu / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Photographee.eu / Shutterstock

Risk Factors of Social Anxiety Disorder

Social phobia, a mental disorder which is so common, starts in the early or mid-teens stage.

Some of the factors that increase the chance of occurrence of social anxiety disorder include the following:

  • New social environment or workloads: Meeting new people, giving a speech in public, etc., may usually trigger social anxiety disorder and these symptoms are the main roots in adolescent or elder people.
  • Negative life experiences: An individual, who has experienced negative situations like bad presentation, rejection, humiliation, etc., may be associated with social anxiety disorder.
  • Background of the family: If parents or siblings already has social phobia, there is a chance of developing this condition.
  • Temperament: A person who is shy, timid, and reserved while facing a new situation or facing new people, there may be a greater risk.
  • Health condition: The anxiety that other people are giving more attention to aspects such as stuttering (e.g., stammering, stumble, etc.), facial mutilations, Parkinson’s disease (a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement), and some other conditions of health can give rise to the increase in self-conscious feelings and can trigger the phobia.

Types of Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is divided into two main categories, such as:

  1. Social anxiety disorder based on performance: In this category, the anxiety disorder can happen when presenting something in front of society. Some examples are presenting a speech in public, work life, sports events, etc.
  2. Social anxiety disorder based on social interaction: Anxiety disorder may occur when interacting with other people such as talking with new friends, fear of seeking help, fear of eating with others, fear of using public restrooms, etc.

Complications of Social Anxiety Disorder

An individual is prevented from living a normal life by social anxiety disorder. They tend to avoid those situations that most people consider as “normal.” When an individual avoids all or most social situations, it affects or interferes with personal relationships as well as with work life. It leads to the following reactions in a person:

  • Staying away from people and feeling difficultyin forming a social relationship.
  • Start using substances like alcohol.
  • Stressed in work life or low performance and lack of employee achievements, etc.
  • Depression: it refers to a mental illness in which a person is worried and unhappy for a long period and feels hard to restart normal life.
  • Life situations seem impossible to deal with or face, and is the root ofsuicidal tendencies.

Overcoming and Rehabilitation

The following are some of the coping methods that may help with anxiety in a person:

  • Join a group that brings more opportunities to participate in activities so that anxiety is reducedand communication and public speaking capabilities are improved.
  • Frequent interaction with family members and friends.
  • Start with a small step of confronting a social environment by joining a local support group.
  • When the individual feels anxious, practice comfortable activities such as hobbies.

These coping methods can help control the symptoms and prevent anxious situations. One should be strong in mind that anxious moments can be overcome and that anxiety is only for a short period.

Tips for Easy Recovery

A person with social anxiety disorder needs to take the following steps to reduce the impact of the disorder.

  • Early treatment: start treatment as soon as possible.
  • Maintain a record: keep a track of the individual’s personal life that helps the physician to identify what causes the stress and decide on the treatment.
  • Avoid alcohol and other unhealthy substances: unhealthy substances such as alcohol and drugs like nicotine can cause anxiety. An individual addicted to any of these substances will experience more anxiety when the time comes to quit the habit.
  • Spend valuable time with friends or with one whom you feel most comfortable.
  • Preparefor activities by which the anxiety level can be reduced throughcareful management of time and energy.
  • Have enough sleep.

Reviewed by Susha Cheriyedath, MSc

Further Reading

Last Updated: Oct 9, 2017

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