Living with Social Anxiety Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Social anxiety disorder — also called social phobia — is a mental health condition characterized by feelings of intense fear before or during social situations.
Although the cause of social anxiety isn’t fully understood, there are many factors that can trigger it. These include public speaking, going to parties, or meeting new people.
Social anxiety can be managed with counseling, medication, and various home remedies that reduce the severity of negative feelings.
It’s important to see your doctor if you frequently experience social anxiety disorder symptoms. A healthcare provider can help you develop healthy ways to manage your condition and improve your quality of life.
Social anxiety is a mental health issue that affects the daily lives of nearly 15 million Americans.
Individuals with this condition frequently experience persistent feelings of fear and being perceived negatively by others.
It can be a debilitating condition to live with, especially if social anxiety is left untreated. However, it is possible to incorporate various coping strategies into your daily routine to help
Emotional and behavioral symptoms
These are psychological symptoms that individuals with social anxiety commonly experience, such as:
- Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating themselves
- Intense fear of or anxiety about interacting with strangers
- Avoiding doing social activities that involve speaking to people
- Developing anxiety in anticipation of an activity or event
- Self-critical thoughts
- Difficulty initiating or maintaining conversations
Some individuals may also experience physical symptoms due to social anxiety. These may include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Trembling or shaking
- Nausea or stomach upsets
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
- Muscle tension
Counseling — specifically cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) — involves speaking to a mental health professional or attending support groups.
In CBT, individuals usually work with a therapist to identify and challenge negative thought patterns or beliefs contributing to their social anxiety.
They learn coping strategies, such as relaxation techniques and gradual exposure to feared situations — this is also called exposure therapy.
CBT helps people to develop new skills and perspectives that improve their confidence to navigate social interactions over time.
Another counseling technique is called acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). In ACT, people learn how to use mindfulness and behavioral strategies to overcome social anxiety.
With ACT, individuals can learn how to overcome social anxiety by living a more value-based life.
Your healthcare provider may also recommend group therapy to improve your social skills and techniques.
This may help improve your confidence to interact with people and it also helps you learn that social situations don’t always have to be intimidating.
In some cases, your doctor may prescribe medications to help treat social anxiety symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Common drugs used to treat social anxiety include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
It’s important to note that social anxiety medication can take several weeks to have a noticeable effect.
Drugs like propranolol can also be used as a short-acting medication that you can take when you need it.
Before using any medication for social anxiety, consult your doctor. They can help you determine which drug and dosage is right for your condition.
Key Point: How Do SSRIs and SNRIs Treat Social Anxiety?
These common anxiety drugs can be used to treat various mental health conditions.
Both SSRIs and SNRIs affect neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically serotonin and norepinephrine — two transmitters that are responsible for regulating your moods and emotions.
The medications work by making more serotonin and norepinephrine available for the body to use. This helps to improve and stabilize your mood while reducing excessive anxiety.
Home remedies can be used together with professional medical treatment to help you overcome social anxiety.
These remedies may include:
- Breathing exercises
- Avoiding caffeine and other stimulants
- Getting enough sleep
- Incorporating exercises like yoga into your routine to help manage stress
- Educating yourself about social anxiety
- Finding a trusted person you can talk to when you feel anxious
- Eating a balanced diet
- Getting regular exercise
- Knowing the signs of social anxiety and when to seek help
Key Point: Can Social Anxiety Be Cured?
While social anxiety disorder can’t be completely cured, it can be managed effectively to reduce its impact on your life.
Through methods like CBT and ACT, individuals with social anxiety can learn to overcome negative patterns while developing healthy coping strategies.
With time, practice, and consistent effort, many people with social anxiety have noted a significant improvement in their ability to deal with their condition.
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