• Adam Hutchinson

Social Anxiety Disorder: An overview

Updated: Oct 7

Uncomfortable in social situations? Feel the heat rising to your face every time the attention is on you? Wish you could make more friends but feel too shy? The majority of us have faced these feelings at some point in our life, but others dwell on these so much they struggle to live day-to-day. While some extent of social anxiety is normal when it starts to interfere with your daily life it could be time to reach out for help. This post will walk you through common symptoms and treatments of social anxiety disorder.


Social Anxiety disorder eludes to the fear and phobias surrounding social situations. The majority of this arises from fears about being negatively judged by others. These fears can have a serve effect on your life, as a perceptively normal life involves a lot of human interaction. Simply going to work can cause a lot of anxiety for someone with this disorder. Hence, it’s important to identify social anxiety disorder so you can reach out for help if you need it.


Symptoms


Symptoms range across a variety of social situations but the primary factor is experiencing significant distress. This distress will rear it’s head either in the physical situation or thinking about the situation. If you have social anxiety you genuinely want to be friendly and social but your fears surrounding human interaction will stop you. You may not be able to meet strangers, catch public transport, dread making a social error, or find it difficult to do things like eating or drinking in public. If you have social anxiety common symptoms are feeling dizzy, nauseous, short of breath, or an increased heartbeat when in a situation in which you have developed the fear.


Causes


Social anxiety disorder can be a result of a specific incident such as a time you were severely humiliated. Another cause is a build-up of stress over time usually related to a social situation. It can also be due to environmental aspects such as an anxious family household. Often there is not one single cause but a collation of social stress and incidents over time. If you suffer from social anxiety it can be beneficial in therapy to distinguish these causes. This can help you make meaning of why you feel off in certain situations.


Treatment


Psycho-education can be a beneficial place to start managing social anxiety. Psycho-education refers to education and information sharing about mental health disorders. This practice is common in any counseling or therapy you might receive. By gaining knowledge about the disorder you may make some sense of why you feel that way. It will also help you identify symptoms so you can work out what triggers your social anxiety.


Receiving help from a trained professional can change the whole trajectory of your life if you suffer from an anxiety disorder. For some individuals, it’s important to find the root of the anxiety, for others its about finding ways to overcome these anxious feelings.


CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) is a popular and effective treatment for managing social anxiety. This type of therapy predominately focuses on rewiring and challenging negative or unhelpful thoughts. It can help those suffering from social anxiety understand these thoughts they are having around social situations are likely irrational. With this knowledge, you will work with your psychologist to slowly introduce social situations at a pace you feel comfortable.


There are many new technologies out there which are assisting the therapy process. oVRcome is developing innovative technology to help aid those with phobias and anxieties. This virtual reality can help build confidence in a non-threatening social environment with exposure therapy. You could also try the free social anxiety test where you'll get a customised report with actionable tips for your severity level.


There are anti-depressant medications that can be prescribed which have shown to help reduce anxiety. These are most effective when used in conjunction with therapy such as CBT. Medication is often the last port of call when managing social anxiety disorder.


While this post has hopefully provided some insight into social anxiety disorder, it is by no means a replacement for professional treatment.