Anyone can get nervous when faced with certain events like meeting someone new, being around a large crowd, or doing something in front of an audience. Social anxiety disorder entails a strong fear of being judged in these situations and other less frightening scenarios.
Worrying about normal everyday events for weeks before any of them are scheduled has a restricting effect on those who are suffering from a social phobia to the point where it interferes with their life in a huge way. These tasks are now challenges that illicit embarrassment and fear. Anything can cause social anxiety disorder symptoms, from using a public restroom to something as simple as going to and from work or school.
People with these phobias feel overwhelmed and might end up avoiding any activities that present a problem. Varying situations can instigate feelings of embarrassment, and while some are isolated with only one or two triggers, other cases will involve just about any social setting, which ultimately makes the person begin withdrawing from life. In many instances, the person knows they should not be afraid, yet the sense of fear overrides that logic and the anxiety prevails again.
No absolute causes have been determined for social anxiety disorders, and it is unclear why some people will experience it and others will not. However, a social phobia can be genetic and it can definitely run in certain families. Background information about a person’s environment or stress level might also be factors when attempting to locate an exact cause of social anxiety.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder
When someone has a social anxiety disorder and requires treatment, it is important to recognize warning signs and the following symptoms:
- Fear that others will judge them or notice they have a phobia
- Not wanting to talk with people out of anxiety, despite wishing they could have a conversation
- Self-consciousness and overall embarrassment about being around people
- Avoiding people and places that trigger the anxiety
- Excessive worrying in advance of an event for days or weeks
- Reacting to being around people with trembling, stomach problems, feeling nauseous, blushing and sweating
- Trouble establishing new friendships or with maintaining existing ones
Social Anxiety Disorder Stats
A social phobia normally begins when a person is young and a physician can diagnose it when symptoms are observed for at least half a year. Treatment is essential in conquering the phobia because without help, a social anxiety can last for years or even a lifetime. Generally, social phobias will start around 13 years of age, and it has been reported in approximately 6.8 percent, or 15 million, of American adults who are 18 or over.
It is necessary to talk with a physician who can properly diagnose a social phobia to ensure that symptoms are not from another kind of problem that is physical and not mental. Once a social anxiety disorder has been diagnosed, the physician might recommend a mental health specialist who will use psychotherapy, medication or both in the treatment plan. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is very effective in treating social phobias and helping patients learn how to react, behave, and think in a way that reduces anxiety and lessens fear. The vital element in cognitive psychotherapy is how it works with behavior and why it can encourage a new approach to social settings.
Like with many other disorders, medication is a treatment option for social phobia and the most prescribed forms are:
- Anti-anxiety medication. These medications are powerful and quick, but usually not used for long periods. A variety of different types are available.
- Antidepressants: Normally used for treatment of depression, antidepressants are more often prescribed than anti-anxiety medications. They can take up to several weeks to start relieving symptoms.
Prescription medication is known to have certain side effects that can vary depending on how a person reacts to it. Antidepressants particularly have a list of side effects that patients might notice, including sickness or nausea, headaches and insomnia, which usually do not become a problem when the medication is started in very small dosages and slowly increased over time and with constant monitoring. Remember that patients must inform their doctor about any side effects that occur when using any type of antidepressant.
While antidepressants are considered a safe and effective treatment of social phobias, there are many risk factors that can take place. The risks are especially prevalent in children, teens and young adults. One of the most important areas of concern is that antidepressants may cause thoughts or attempts of suicide, which only reinforces the need for a strong warning label.
Some symptoms of a social anxiety disorder might be reduced through the use of beta-blockers, another type of medication that is prescribed in cases where a specific phobia happens with an exact situation. For example, a person who is troubled by stage fright might be prescribed this type of medication to help control shakiness, a speeding heartbeat, and excessive sweating out of fear or anxiety.
Get Help Today
At Foundations Recovery Network, we know that social anxiety disorders are tougher to cope with when they are combined with an addiction or abuse issue, and our staff members are uniquely qualified to treat Dual Diagnosis issues. Knowing what to look for and how addictions and abuse can work in conjunction with a social phobia is critical when treating these special conditions.
Never let a social phobia limit or eliminate happiness because any disorder is treatable. Recovery can start in a safe atmosphere where treatment options are presented in a comprehensive manner that addresses each specific area a social anxiety disorder has affected. If you or someone you know has social anxiety or phobias, or struggles with addiction, feel free to call us for more information.
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David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.