What is social anxiety disorder?

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We’re all pretty well acquainted with terms like depression and anxiety but what about social anxiety disorder, which is apparently extremely common and yet is often misdiagnosed as something else.

It is believed that as many as 10 percent of the population suffer from social anxiety disorder at some point in their lives and the symptoms usually first appear in young adulthood.

Researchers don’t yet agree on any one cause of social anxiety disorder although it is believed that the Amygdala is involved, which is the part of the brain that deals with fear responses and emotions.

Some research using magnetic resonance imaging scans has shown that the brains of people suffering from social anxiety disorder or social phobia respond differently to negative comments than people without the anxiety disorder. This study was published in the General Archives of Psychiatry back in 2008.

It is also believed that biochemistry may play a role and that increased sensitivity to what others may think may be down to hormones.

Now it’s normal to get a little nervous when facing social situations but social anxiety disorder is much worse and is characterised by severe anxiety surrounding any sort of interaction with others in social situations or in situations the individual is being watched or observed, severe enough to interfere and disrupt normal routines.

Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder

  • Anxiety and extreme nervousness long before an impending social situation
  • Fear of being embarrassed or causing embarrassment and humiliation, or others noticing your embarrassment and nervousness
  • Blushing and shaking
  • Sweating, racing heart, nausea and feeling dizzy before and during social interactions
  • Feeling self conscious around others
  • Fear that people are watching and judging what you look like, and what you do or say, particularly strangers

It’s important to note that we’re not just talking about social gatherings like parties and other sorts of social get-togethers here, the symptoms can occur where any kind of interaction is required like talking to colleagues at work, shopping, or having to use public transport.

An individual with severe social anxiety disorder may turn to drugs or alcohol to help them cope and are at an increased risk of suffering from depression.

The main treatments for social anxiety disorder are drugs and/or some sort of therapy or counselling. However, an understanding of the condition and realising that you are not alone in your suffering can help recovery. If you believe you may be suffering from social anxiety disorder then speak to your doctor for advice.

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