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Social Anxiety Disorder

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social Anxiety Disorder (also known as social phobia and excessive shyness) is characterised by a persistent fear of social or performance situations in which the individual believes they will be in some way be evaluated negatively or judged by others. Problems usually develop in adolescence and the individual can believe that their anxiety is a part of their personality and nothing can be done about it – but the evidence is that social anxiety disorder is a treatable condition.

People with social anxiety tend to have specific negative beliefs about themselves in social situations such as ‘I’m boring’ or ‘I have nothing to say’. When they become socially anxious they tend to focus on how they are coming across to others. These thoughts cause them to feel physical symptoms of anxiety such as sweating, shaking or blushing that can cause further embarrassment and feelings of self-consciousness. They may feel a sense of panic around the idea that they are not making a good impression, or feel as though they are the centre of attention with “all eyes on them”. Afterwards they think about how they could have done better in that social situation, churning over past interactions. They may then start to experience anticipatory anxiety and fear going to future social events.

It may have become increasingly difficult for them to speak in public, express their opinion to a group of friends or colleagues, or even eat and socialise with friends. They may try to deal with it by avoiding social engagements that they think they may find difficult. Overtime, they may find that they are retreating into an ever-smaller world. Instead of helping with the situation, the anxiety can become more acute, and can even lead to problems with alcohol or substance abuse, eating disorders, and other self-harming behaviours.

How common is social anxiety disorder?

Social anxiety disorder is the most common anxiety disorder and the third/fourth most common mental disorder in the U.S., after depression and alcohol dependence. Social anxiety affects approximately 13.7% of adults at any one point in time. That is nearly one in eight adults.

Take the test – Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN)

If you scored19 or above, this indicates that you may have social anxiety disorder and require treatment.

What is the treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the treatment of choice for social anxiety disorder. It will involve:

  • Learning about the triggers that lead to your anxiety

  • Taking a closer look at the thinking responses that contribute to social anxiety and how they can be changed

  • Gently confronting social situations so that you can feel less anxious when you are in them

  • Understanding the origins of your anxiety to deal with its deeper causes

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