Anxiety Disorders are very common and often come with negative stigmas and misunderstandings. To help you better understand what anxiety disorders are we suggest you think of this metaphor: anxiety disorders are like a cake with multiple layers. Some of the most common or heard of anxiety disorders include: generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Disorder (PTSD), and Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder).
For instance, the cake layer we will focus on is social phobias or social anxiety disorder. The working definition for social anxiety is: “it involves high levels of anxiety, fear, and avoidance of social situations due to feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness and concern about being judged or viewed negatively by others.” (Mayo Clinic Definition)
To begin, being shy or uncomfortable in social situations does not necessarily mean you have social phobia. A social phobia is when being in social situations causes you to feel so uncomfortable that you feel fear and anxiety. These emotions are so extreme that you change your daily routines to avoid the feelings of fear and anxiety that come with certain social situations. It is typical for social anxiety to present itself amongst mid-teens, but sometimes it can start in younger children and adults. There are situations that can increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder:
- Family history
- Negative experiences
- New social demands
- Work demands
- Having an appearance or condition that draws attention to you
In addition, the brain structure may also play a role, specifically in the amygdala region. The amygdala controls the fear response. If your amygdala is overactive your sense of fear may be heightened increasing anxiety in social situations.
It is important to note that social phobias are not to be taken lightly. Above all, if left untreated they can not only control your life but also cause other complications. Including the following:
- Low self-esteem
- Trouble being assertive
- Negative self-talk
- Hypersensitivity to criticism
- Poor social skills
- Isolation and difficult social relationships
- Low academic achievements
- Low employment accomplishments
- Substance abuse
- Suicide or suicide attempts
Treatments for Social Phobias:
It is important to seek professional help early on to prevent other physical or mental health disorders to go along with social phobia. Your doctor will advise you on what the best treatment may be for you. Some known treatments may include:
- Keeping a journal
- Learning to prioritize issues in your life
- Avoiding unhealthy substances to prevent abuse problems
- Physical exams to determine if medications or medical conditions are causing your anxiety
- Self-report questionnaires about your symptoms of social anxieties
- Discussing your symptoms, how often, and in what situations they occur
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