In a world of uncertainty, many people are struggling more and more with high amounts of anxiety. Between the pandemic and the cost of living, stress has certainly been on the rise.
Feeling some anxiety is normal, as it’s a normal response to some situations. However, undue amounts of anxiety or social anxiety that keep you stuck inside or living in fear can be a sign that you’re struggling with a social anxiety disorder.
Social anxiety disorder, also referred to as social phobia, is a more extreme fear of being in social situations. It could be fear of being humiliated, embarrassed, judged, or something else. Sufferers tend to think that everyone is watching them when they are in public. This can cause immediate anxiety marked with racing thoughts.
Extreme shyness is sometimes confused with social anxiety disorder. However, mildly shy people do not usually fall into this category. In some extreme cases, social anxiety disorder sufferers can fear using public restrooms or speaking on the phone in front of others.
However, other people with this condition can feel very relaxed with certain people, but get very anxious in particular situations, such as when having to make a public speech.
Social anxiety has the capacity to disrupt normal lifestyles and interfere with social relationships and possible careers.
There are various symptoms associated with social anxiety disorder. Keep in mind that there is a spectrum too. While one person may struggle mildly with this kind of anxiety, another person may struggle immensely. At the extreme, someone may even fall into agoraphobia, which is the fear of leaving the house as they deem home to be the only safe space for them.
The following are various social anxiety symptoms:
Social events can cause undue anxiety, making it challenging to get together with others or be in large groups. They may fear being humiliated, incapable, or fear the sensations of anxiety or panic that come over them. Some people only fear specific situations where they will be the center of other people’s attraction. These people can get very anxious when giving presentations or participating in discussions.
Another symptom of social anxiety disorder is having a lengthened period of anxiety before a social event. The person may obsess in their mind about the event, and those racing thoughts can cause them to feel overwhelming sensations of anxiety in the body.
Feeling extremely self-conscious when in public can be a symptom of social anxiety. You may think all eyes are on you. You may fear that you’re being judged by what you’re wearing, how you look, who you’re with, or what you’re doing.
Someone who has social anxiety may fear that their physical symptoms in public, such as sweating, shaking, stuttering, or blushing may cause them to feel humiliated. It’s already tough for them to be in public relating to others, but the thoughts of others seeing their anxious symptoms stresses them out even more.
Many who suffer from social anxiety disorder have a tough time making and/or keeping friends. They may desire friendship, but the level of anxiety they feel doesn’t seem to be worth the effort. They may find it easier to have online friendships.
Spending a lot of time analyzing behaviour after socializing is another symptom of social anxiety disorder. Some people go to the extreme to analyze their performance and can be quite tough on themselves, which makes it even harder for them to socialize in the future. They may view their part in all of their social interactions as failures.
For a conclusive diagnosis to be made for social anxiety disorder, one should see a professional therapist. There are various criteria to meet to be labelled a disorder.
The good news is that there are helpful treatments, including:
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is done by a therapist and seeks to help the patient identify thought or belief patterns that seem to be the source of anxiety. These patterns can be made more realistic and beneficial to the patient. Behavioural therapy seeks to change behaviour that isn’t serving the patient. Different techniques are applied, depending on the severity of the condition and its circumstances. These methods can be blended to enable the patient to benefit from altering both behaviour and thoughts.
Help can be obtained from videos, books and audio recordings, which offer help on how to prevent anxiety. They help the user in mastering breathing techniques, among other measures of relieving anxiety and stress.
Sometimes antidepressant medication is used for reducing symptoms associated with anxiety. They do not work instantly, as they may take a couple of weeks to notice some changes. The most commonly used antidepressants belong to the family of Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). Examples include Sertraline and Escitalopram.
Medications such as propranolol can reduce some of the physical symptoms like palpitations and trembling. They have no direct effect on mental symptoms like worry. By reducing physical symptoms, this medication allows most people to better relax.
These are tranquillizers that work to reduce the major symptoms associated with social anxiety. However, they have addictive qualities and can become less effective if used over time.
Some people who suffer from social anxiety try to self-medicate by drinking alcohol before social events. This may give them a sense of relief from the uncomfortable anxious feelings, but they run the risk of becoming addicted to alcohol. And, alcohol can actually make anxiety worse over time, as well as cause sleep disruptions.
If you’ve been drinking to deal with anxiety, consider stopping. Reach out for help from a professional to contend with the anxiety and/or an addiction to alcohol. They’ll be able to do an assessment and help you create a suitable plan to help you in whatever areas you need help with.