Social Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder is a mental condition characterized by a fear of being watched or judged by others in social situations. It is also known as social phobia.
It is natural to feel self conscious, nervous or shy in front of others at time. Most people get through these moments when they need to ,but for some people, the anxiety that goes with feeling shy or self conscious can be extreme.
People with social anxiety disorder are fearful of or anxious about certain social situations due to a fear of negative judgement , embarassment or rejection. They may understand that their fears are irrational or unreasonable, but feel powerless to overcome them.
Social anxiety is different from shyness. Shyness is usually short term and doesn’t disrupt one’s life. Social anxiety is persistent and debilitating. It can affect one’s ability to work, attend school, develop close relationships with people outside of their family.
Social anxiety disorder typically begins in the early to midteens , though it can sometimes start in younger children or in adults.
Physical Symptoms –
• Fast heartbeat
• Excessive sweating
• Upset stomach or nausea
• Trouble catching your breath
• Feeling of blank mind
Psychological symptoms –
• Worrying intensely about social situation in which you may be judged.
• Intense fear of interacting or talking with strangers.
• Fear that others will notice that you look anxious.
• Fear of physical symptoms that may embarass you such as blushing , trembling , sweating or having a shaky voice or hands.
• Avoiding situations where you might be the centre of attention.
• Expecting the worst possible consequences from a negative experience during a social situation.
• Avoiding doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment.
• For children anxiety about interacting with adults or peers may be shown by crying , having temper tantrums , refusing to speak in social situations.
Avoiding common social situations –
• Interacting with unfamiliar people or strangers.
• Attending parties or social gatherings.
• Going work or school.
• Making eye contact.
• Dating someone.
• Entering a room where already people are seated.
• Returning items to a store.
• Eating in front of others.
• Job interviews.
• Using public restrooms.
The exact cause of social phobia is unknown .
• Negative experiences – They may contribute to this disorder including -bullying , family conflict, sexual abuse.
• Brain structure – Physical abnormalities such as serotonin imbalance may contribute to the condition . Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that helps regulate mood. A structure in the brain called amygdala releases serotonin ,that play role in controlling the fear response.
• Inherited Traits – Anxiety disorders tend to run in families. It may be due to genetics or due to learner behaviour from family.
• Environment – Social anxiety disorder may be a learner behaviour from your near by environment,if it is unpleasant or embarassing always ,one can become anxious of certain situations.
Selective Mutism –
It is a form of social phobia.Some kids and teens are so extremely shy and so fearful about talking to others ,that they don’t speak at all to some people or in certain places. People with selective mutism can talk ,they have completely normal conversation with the people they are comfortable with or in certain places but other situations give them extreme anxiety.
Some people might mistake their silence for a stuck up attitude or rudeness but it’s their genuine problem not attitude.
Risk Factors –
• Family history –
If your biological parents or siblings have this condition ,you may be prone to it.
• Negative Experiences –
Children who experience teasing , bullying , rejection or humiliation are more at risk of social anxiety.
• Temperament –
Children who are shy, timid, restrained when facing new situation are at greater risk.
• New social or work demands –
Social anxiety disorder may start in teenage years ,but meeting new people, giving a speech in public or making an important work presentation may trigger symptoms for the first time.
• Having an appearance that draws condition –
Facial disfigurement, stuttering or tremors due to Parkinson’s disease can increase feeling of self conscious may trigger social anxiety in some people.
• Low self esteem
• Trouble being assertive
• Negative self talk
• Hypersensitivity to criticism
• Poor social skills
• Isolation and difficult social relationships
• Low academic and employment acheivement
• Substance abuse such as drinking alcohol
• Suicidal Thoughts
How to overcome social anxiety disorder –
1) Challenge negative thoughts –
Social anxiety sufferers have negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to their fears and anxiety. Some of the example of such thoughts are –
• I know I will end up looking like a fool.
• My voice will start shaking and I will humiliate myself.
• People will think I am stupid.
Challenging such type of negative thoughts is an effective way to reduce the symptoms of social anxiety .Some unhelpful thinking styles like mind reading , fortune telling ,catastrophizing , personalizing makes your mind more anxious, so one should try to get out of such thinking with their will power.
2) Focus on others ,not yourself –
Excessive self focus just makes you more aware of how nervous you’re feeling and triggering even more anxiety. Switching from an internal to an external focus can go a long way toward reducing social anxiety.
More you concentrate on what’s happening around you ,the less you will be affected by anxiety.
3) Learn to control your breathing –
Overbreathing throws off the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body – leading to more physical symptoms of Anxiety . Learning to slow your breathing down by meditation techniques can help your physical symptoms of anxiety back under control. Practicing the following breathing exercise will help you stay calm –
• Sit comfortably
• Inhale slowly
• Hold your breath for 2 sec
• Exhale slowly
• Continue Breathing
Focus on keeping a slow and steady breathing pattern for 4 sec in ,2 sec hold and 6 sec out. It helps to make you more calm in anxious situation.
4) Face your fears –
Face the social situation you fear rather than to avoid them will be more helpful. The key is to start with a situation that you can handle and gradually work your way up to more challenging situations , building your confidence and coping skills as you move up the anxiety ladder.
5) Make an effort to be more social –
Try following ways –
• Take a social skills class or an assertiveness training class.
• Volunteer doing something you enjoy.
• Work on your communication skills.
6) Adopt an anti anxiety lifestyle –
• Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol.
• Get active for physical activities for atleast 30 minutes per day like gyming , running etc.You can also try window shopping in mall , dancing on your favourite music to make yourself feel more calm.
• Add more omega -3 fats to your diet ,it can improve your mood, outlook and ability to handle anxiety.
• Quit smoking
• Get enough quality sleep
If all these ways also don’t work , you may take help of professionals, who can help you with available treatment known as coagnitive behavioural therapy.
• Beta blockers
Ayurvedic Relaxants –
With the help of above ways and also with some relaxants you can overcome your anxiety ,make your self more calm and live your life more confidently .
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