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  • Desiree Valadez

Social Anxiety Disorder: How It Affects Those Who Suffer From It

By: Desiree Valadez , Contributing Writer

Edited by: Fauzia Haque, Editor; Eve Nevelos, Editor in Chief

In some social circumstances, it's natural to feel nervous. Going on a date or doing a presentation, for example, might induce butterflies in one's stomach. However, ordinary encounters with social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, generate substantial worry, self-consciousness, and humiliation since one is afraid of being examined or assessed adversely by others. Social anxiety disorder (SAD), a prominent mental health problem, affects millions of people all over the world. It's a constant, acute dread of being observed and evaluated by others. This dread might have an impact on one’s employment, school, and other daily activities. It can even make making and keeping friends difficult. Social anxiety disorder is a common type of anxiety, frequently diagnosed within the population. In specific or all social settings, such as meeting new people, dating, going on a job interview, answering a question at class, or having to talk to a cashier in a shop, a person with social anxiety disorder experiences worry or terror often. Doing routine tasks in public, such as eating or drinking in front of others or using a public bathroom, might generate anxiety or panic as the individual is concerned about being humiliated, judged, or rejected. People with SAD have such severe fears in social circumstances that they believe they are powerless to manage it. As a result, it makes it difficult to get to work, go to school, or complete basic tasks. People who suffer from SAD may be concerned about these and other issues for weeks before they occur. They may avoid locations or activities where they believe they could be forced to do anything that would humiliate them.

People who are very shy may develop social anxiety disorder when they are young. According to the Mental Health American Organization, “Fifteen million, or seven percent, of American adults have Social Anxiety Disorder. More than 75% of people experience their first symptoms during their childhood or early teenage years.” SAD can persist for years or even a lifetime if left untreated, preventing a person from realizing their full potential. There are many signs and symptoms of SAD including sweating, trembling, racing heart rate, feeling ill to their stomach or nauseated, showing a stiff body posture, making minimal eye contact, talking in a hushed tone, etc, when in social situations. To add, those with the disorder find it frightening and uncomfortable to be around other people, especially those they don't know, and they find it tough to communicate with them, even though they want to. Social anxiety disorder can run in families, but no one understands why some members of the family suffer from it while others do not. Fear and anxiety are linked to numerous areas of the brain, according to research. Some experts believe that misunderstanding others' actions may contribute to the development or exacerbation of social anxiety. Another factor that may contribute to social anxiety is a lack of social skills. For example, if an individual’s social skills are lacking, they may feel disappointed after conversing with others and be hesitant to do it again. Because SAD can be so destructive, there are some treatments that can alleviate the devastating symptoms. For example, social anxiety disorder can be treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help manage the disorder's thoughts and physical symptoms. Exposure therapy is a particularly effective treatment for social anxiety disorder because it focuses on confronting a fear or phobia directly. It entails developing coping strategies and gradually increasing the intensity of the things that make one uncomfortable and afraid. This might involve things like calling a friend, chatting to a stranger, applying for a job, or giving a public speech. Exposure therapy is extremely effective because it teaches a person that they can manage fear-inducing events over time. In addition, another form of treatment might be medication like antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and beta-blockers. However, seeking treatment might be extremely difficult as the disorder makes one extremely self-conscious. One form of treatment, which might be easier for someone to start their road to get better, is finding support groups with individuals who have gone through similar things. According to the National Institute of Mental Health,“In a group of people who all have social anxiety disorder, you can receive unbiased, honest feedback about how others in the group see you. This way, you can learn that your thoughts about judgment and rejection are not true or are distorted.'' So if one does not have the resources or is having a hard time with starting recovery, support groups might be extremely helpful. However, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Despite the availability of effective treatments, fewer than 5% of people with social anxiety disorder seek treatment in the year following initial onset and more than a third of people report symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help.” If you feel that social anxiety disorder is something you struggle with, please seek help. You're not alone, all you have to do is google “social anxiety support groups near me”.

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