Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a disorder in which a person has an extreme and irrational fear of social situations. People suffering from this anxiety disorder become self-consciousness and extremely nervous with the fear of being criticized, watched, or judged by others.
The main fear of people suffering from this social anxiety disorder is that they will become humiliated in front of other people. They feel that they will be embarrassed by making a mistake and that others will be watching or care about their flaws. These fears can be intensified in people that have little experience with social skills or social gatherings. When a person is confronted with a social situation they will become uncomfortable and the anxiety of the situation can result in a panic attack. In order to avoid these panic attacks or the feelings associated with being in front of others, a person may seclude themselves and refuse to be in the position where they have to be around people. In many cases, sufferers of social anxiety disorder will also exhibit symptoms of anticipatory anxiety. This means that the person will actually start to panic about a social situation days or weeks before the scheduled event takes place. For some people they realize that they have a disorder and that the fear is irrational but they are unable to stop the feelings and panic from taking over.
Thoughts of people with social anxiety disorder are unrealistic and distorted. They fear the negative opinions of others to the point where it will interfere with their relationships, careers, hobbies and schooling. Often people with social anxiety disorder can direct there phobias into one particular area or situation. Some of the areas that phobias can be directed include, public speaking, eating in front of others, dating, interviewing, using public restrooms, talking over the phone, going to parties, writing in front of others or being the center of attention. These are a few of the specific situations in which the anxiety can surface, however most people that suffer from social anxiety disorder can suffer from several or all of these at the same time.
It is not uncommon for a person who has social anxiety disorder to also have other mental illnesses. Illnesses such as obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and panic disorders can be linked to social anxiety disorder. A person may be seeking treatment for one of these other illnesses when social anxiety symptoms are discovered and diagnosed.
Beyond the anxiety and feelings of nervousness and panic there are other physical symptoms that may take place. Heart pounding, shaking, tense muscles, diarrhea, stomach upset and sweating can all occur. For children that suffer from the condition symptoms can vary. Often children show signs of the disorder by becoming clingy to the parent, crying or having a tantrum.
If you feel you are suffering from social anxiety disorder you need to be evaluated as soon as possible to avoid causing problems with relationships, careers and hobbies. This disorder can progress and worsen over time to the point where a person secludes themselves and rarely leaves their house.
Once you are diagnosed with this disorder your doctor will determine the best treatment for you and your situation. Medications may be used to treat social anxiety disorder however cognitive-behavior therapy has shown to be one of the best methods of treatment. Cognitive-behavior therapy is designed to help a person face their fears and redirect irrational thoughts into a more realistic way of thinking. Ways of coping with a scary situation can be taught and exposure to given situations can be introduced back into the lifestyle gradually. This is all done under the supervision of a trained therapist. Other techniques can be taught such as deep breathing, visualization techniques and meditation, in order to move past the fears as well.