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Posted on: May 4, 2021 | Julie Winn

Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, affects 15 million adult Americans. 

Characterized by extreme anxiety or fear within social settings, over 75% of those diagnosed with social anxiety experience their first symptoms during childhood or early teenage years.

Here’s what you need to know.

Social Anxiety Symptoms

Social anxiety can debilitate those who live with this condition. When you experience persistent and severe distress in social situations, this can impair important areas of functioning.

The symptoms and signs of social anxiety can vary from one individual to the next. Feeling shy or uncomfortable in certain situations does not mean you or your loved one have social anxiety disorder. Life experiences and personality traits can create varying comfort levels — and that is perfectly normal. The issue is when your fears and anxieties interfere with your daily routine, especially at work or school.

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of social anxiety include:

  • Fear of social situations and “being judged”
  • An intense fear of interacting with others, especially strangers
  • Avoiding talking to people because you fear embarrassment
  • Avoiding situations where you may be the center of attention
  • Feeling immense anxiety during a social situation
  • Obsessing about your performance or the flaws in your interactions following a social situation
  • Expecting the worst potential outcome or a negative experience before a social event
  • Trembling, sweating, and lightheadedness
  • Increased heart rate and muscle tension
  • What Causes Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety does not have one specific cause. Instead, there are several risk factors that need to be taken into consideration.

Most patients with social anxiety disorder score very low on the personality trait extraversion and are extremely introverted. Research shows that neuroticism may also underlie many anxiety and depressive disorders. There may also be a neurological basis, as patients with social anxiety disorder often have greater amygdala responsiveness. This part of the brain drives your body’s “fight or flight” response, influencing fear and stress responses.

Genetics also plays a critical role. If you have a first-degree blood relative who has social anxiety disorder, you are anywhere from two to six times more likely to develop this condition yourself. This study concluded that social anxiety is highly heritable, but your environment is the most significant factor in the short term. 

Researchers found that when looking at the long-term risk of social anxiety, your risk is most strongly influenced by genetic factors. However, in the short term, environmental variables have the greatest impact on whether you’ll develop social anxiety.

How Is Social Anxiety Diagnosed?

You or your loved one may notice certain instances that cause intense anxiety, leading to a possible diagnosis. While these situations may be common, everyday experiences for others, they create feelings of immense distress.

For example, feeling anxious about starting conversations, attending social gatherings, making eye contact, dating, using a public restroom, eating in front of others, or entering a room where people are already seated.

Currently, there is no medical test to check for social anxiety disorder. That is why it’s important to express your symptoms to a professional healthcare provider. They will ask a series of questions to better understand your experiences and fears. Based on specific criteria and behavioral patterns, they will help you reach a more formal diagnosis. This will allow you to begin a treatment plan that works for you and your unique circumstance.

How to Overcome Social Anxiety

Yes, social anxiety can feel overwhelming — but there is hope! Although social anxiety disorder is a chronic mental health condition, there are many effective treatment options available. 

These anxiety treatments can help you boost confidence levels and your ability to interact with others.

They include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Exposure therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Lifestyle changes, such as changes to your diet and sleep patterns
  • Highland Springs Can Help

Highland Springs offers specialized anxiety disorder treatment options.

Talk To An Anxiety Therapist Today!

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