Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) is a persistent and overwhelming fear of social situations. It's one of the most common anxiety disorders.

Social anxiety disorder is much more than "shyness". It can be intense fear and anxiety over simple everyday activities, such as shopping or speaking on the phone.

Many people sometimes worry about certain social situations, but someone with social anxiety disorder will worry excessively about them before, during and afterwards. They fear doing or saying something they think will be embarrassing or humiliating, such as blushing, sweating or appearing incompetent. Social anxiety disorder is a  complex phobia. It can have a disruptive or disabling impact on a person's life. It can severely affect a person's confidence and self-esteem, interfere with relationships and impair performance at work or school.

Social anxiety disorder often starts during childhood or adolescence and tends to be more common in women. 

A child with social anxiety disorder may cry more than usual, freeze, or have tantrums. They may fear going to school and taking part in classroom activities and school performances.

Teens and adults with social anxiety disorder may:

  • dread everyday activities, such as meeting strangers, talking in groups or starting conversations, speaking on the telephone, talking to authority figures, working, eating or drinking with company, shopping
  • have low self-esteem and feel insecure about their relationships
  • fear being criticised
  • avoid eye-to-eye contact
  • misuse drugs or alcohol to try to reduce their anxiety

The fear of a social situation can sometimes build up to a panic attack, where you feel an overwhelming sense of fear, apprehension and anxiety. 

You may also experience physical symptoms, such as feeling sick, sweating, trembling and heart palpitations. These symptoms often reach a peak before quickly passing. Although these type of symptoms can be alarming, they don't cause any physical harm.

Some people may also have a substance or alcohol misuse problem, because they use drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with their anxiety.

What causes social anxiety disorder?

As with many mental health conditions, social anxiety disorder is most probably the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Anxiety disorders often run in families, so you're more likely to have social anxiety disorder if a close family member is affected. However, the exact nature of the relationship between genetics and learned behaviour is uncertain.

The behaviour of parents may also have an influence on whether their child will develop social anxiety disorder. If you have worried or anxious parents, it can often affect your ability to cope with anxiety during childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

People with social anxiety disorder often describe their parents as:

  • Overprotective
  • not affectionate enough
  • constantly criticising them and worrying they may do something wrong
  • overemphasising the importance of manners and grooming
  • exaggerating the danger of approaching strangers

 

My therapeutic approaches are geared towards helping desired behavioural change. Under the right conditions effective therapeutic guidance, together with willingness of the client to take responsibility for the desired change, can result in positive results.

The ability of the brain to change its structure is becoming of great importance in health, psychology and neuroscience. Under the right conditions the brain can  alter how it functions, stores information and manage feelings and therefore confidence.