Social phobia or social anxiety disorder is a form of anxiety disorder where a person has irrational and excessive fears of social situations. Self-consciousness and anxiety arise due to a fear of being criticized, closely watched, and judged by others. Individuals who suffer from this disorder are afraid about making mistakes and looking bad in front of other people. They want to avoid being embarrassed and humiliated at all costs. The phobia may be exacerbated by a lack of experience and appropriate social skills, leading to a panic attack.
Social Anxiety Treatment
The anxiety may cause the person to become distressed and avoid certain social situations. People may be afraid of a situation for weeks before the event. Although they are aware that there is no reasonable basis for the fear, they find themselves unable to overcome it.
Affected individuals suffer from distorted thinking, which includes false beliefs concerning the social situations and dismissive opinions of others and themselves. Without proper treatment, it can adversely affect the daily routine of the person, including work, school relationships and social activities.
- Intense nervousness in social situations
- Avoiding social situations
- Physical symptoms include pounding heart, confusion, shaking, sweating, muscle tension, blushing, diarrhea and upset stomach.
Although there is no single known cause, research has indicated that environmental, psychological and biological factors may play a crucial role
- Biological – It is hypothesized that abnormal circuitry in regions of the brain that regulate “fight and flight” response and emotions causes the condition. Genetic factors could also be a contributor, as individuals whose relatives have the condition are more predisposed to getting it.
- Psychological – Humiliating or embarrassing social experiences, like being neglected or bullied by peers, in the formative years may lead to the development of this condition.
- Environmental – Individuals may also develop fears from observing the plight of someone else who is adversely affected. Furthermore, children who are overprotected or sheltered do not get a chance to develop requisite social skills that are necessary for their normal development.
Social Anxiety Treatment
Medication: Antidepressants and benzodiazepines are primarily used to treat the anxiety disorders. Beta-blockers are used to treat physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat and shaking.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): The goal of this is to channel the thoughts of the person in a rational direction and assist them in ignoring situations that worsen their anxiety. It trains people to react differently to anxiety triggers. Therapy includes real life exposure or systematic desensitization to the dreaded social encounter.