Social Anxiety Disorder is characterized by fear of embarrassment associated with performance or exposure to evaluation by others. While we all feel a degree of nervousness in certain social situations, for those with social anxiety disorder, the anxiety is often so severe that it leads to avoidance of these situations altogether. A common concern among people with social anxiety disorder is that they will say or do something that will cause others to view them as weak, anxious, or crazy. This concern is typically out of proportion to the situation. Our Austin Anxiety Therapists can help.
Children and adolescents with social anxiety may avoid recess or gym, using the school restroom, or eating in the cafeteria. They may have difficulty raising a hand in class, giving a presentation, or asking a question that would bring unwanted attention.
Recognizing Social Anxiety
- Fear of being laughed at or embarrassed
- Fear of crowds, public speaking, ordering in a restaurant, using the telephone
- Avoidance of social contact
- Fear of blushing in front of others
- Difficulty maintaining eye contact or engaging in conversation
- Physical symptoms such as a racing heart, stomachache, sweating
- Fear of spilling food or choking while eating near others
- Fear of completing a task such as writing in the presence of others
- In children, anxiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, or freezing
If you suffer from social anxiety, you are not alone! Social anxiety disorder affects approximately 6.8% of the American population. This statistic comes from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), a reliable source, but it is actually a conservative estimate because many people who have social anxiety keep their symptoms a secret. Because of this, they don’t get the social anxiety support they need.
People who have social anxiety often suffer in silence because they are too afraid of what others may think if they disclose their symptoms. In fact, some have become quite good at hiding their symptoms. If you fall into this category, please know you are not alone and your social anxiety CAN be cured if you have proper support and the right proven techniques.
Some people with this disorder don’t even realize they have social anxiety. This is because many of the primary symptoms like heart palpitations, rapid heart beat, shortness of breath, sweating, and a sudden feeling of panic can mimic heart disease. People having panic attacks due to social anxiety sometimes actually show up scared to death in hospital emergency rooms because they sincerely believe they’re having a heart attack. Who could blame them when their heart is pounding and they can’t catch their breath.
Social anxiety can affect literally every aspect of your life. It affects how you interact with friends and family, how you perform at work, and in some cases, it can prevent you from following through with your education or other important goals. Many people with social anxiety avoid going to social functions not because they don’t want to but they are afraid they’ll have an anxiety attack in front of other people. In fact, the fear of having an anxiety attack is one of the main sources of anxiety for people with social anxiety disorder. It is a viscous cycle but it can be broken if you get the support you need and learn the techniques you need to cure it.
People with social anxiety can end up stressing about everything. They tend to worry about social functions weeks in advance. They sometimes obsess about things that may seem trivial to most people. An panic attack can sneak up on them at any time, even standing in line at the grocery store. Social anxiety support can really help with these types of issues.
Sleeping difficulties are common with those who suffer with social anxiety. They lie in bed going over everything that has happened and worrying about every little detail. This can lead to a major anxiety attack in the middle of the night. In fact, this is when some of the worst anxiety attacks occur. This can be a really scary experience, especially if you live alone.
Recommended Treatment For Social Anxiety
With effective treatment, the prognosis for those with social anxiety is very good. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) with an emphasis on exposure therapy is considered the treatment of choice for social anxiety. The early stages of therapy involve psychoeducation, cognitive restructuring, skill development, and relaxation training. These new skills are then implemented in situations that cause anxiety (in vivo exposures). This is accomplished gradually beginning with the least anxiety provoking situations. Participation in a social anxiety-specific CBT group is often a critical component of treatment. Learn more about social anxiety groups at Austin Anxiety and Behavioral Health Services.