Today we're going to talk about social anxiety disorder symptoms and how to know if you have it. Does the fear of being embarrassed or scrutinized cause you to avoid speaking to people? Do you avoid activities in which you are the center of attention? And is your worst fear, being humiliated or being made to look inadequate in front of other people? If so, you might have a social anxiety disorder.
What Is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety disorder is actually quite common and it's one of the more common psychiatric disorders. In the United States, it has a lifetime prevalence of 5 to 12%. Social anxiety disorder is more common in women than men, but men, most certainly, can get it. And if you are going to get a social anxiety disorder, it usually presents itself in adolescence, usually in the mid-teens, but children as young as five years of age can be diagnosed and even people who are older can be diagnosed, especially if they are in a situation where there are new social activities.
For instance, if it's an older person who gets a job that now requires them to do public speaking, they can be diagnosed at that age. People who have social anxiety disorders have an extreme fear in social situations and this fear causes them to want to avoid events that they may want or even need to attend. They get anxious. So if you have a social anxiety disorder, you may need or want to go to certain things like meetings, business dinners, reunions, or your child's soccer games. But this anxiety caused by being in front of other people is so great that you may actually develop an avoidant behavior.
Social Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, can be quite debilitating. And here are some of the symptoms.
- You Avoid Social Situations
You may have a social anxiety disorder if you avoid social situations. If you worry that you're going to be embarrassed in front of other people, or if you fear that others will speak negatively of you if they perceive you as being inadequate.
- You Interpret Neutral Reactions As Being Negative
For example, if you're having a conversation with someone, which is quite normal, and they're reacting to you in a very neutral manner, you may walk away thinking, "Oh, that person doesn't like me. They think I'm not smart. They think I'm not good enough." You may interpret something that is more negative than it actually is.
- Fast Heart Rate
There are also some physical symptoms associated with social anxiety disorder. They include getting a fast heart rate or even irregular breathing or actually having a tremble or tremulousness.
- Often Avoid Making Eye Contact or Speaking
If you are someone who avoids making eye contact or if you often avoid speaking to people you may have social anxiety.
You might have a social anxiety disorder if when you are in public or in front of other people, you start sweating, getting a very fast heart rate, blushing or feeling flushed, having some fast or irregular breathing.
Social Anxiety and Mental Disorders
Social anxiety disorder can also be associated with other mental health disorders. It has a strong association with major depressive disorder or major depression. It can also be associated with substance abuse or excessive alcohol use.
- Feelings Of Inadequacy
You may have feelings of inadequacy, or a severe or debilitating social impairment. In short, it can cause you to have a reduced quality of life.
There are some other attributes associated with a social anxiety disorder that in and of themselves are not necessarily psychiatric disorders. For example, you may have shyness or some inhibition when you are around other people. And people with social anxiety disorders tend to have shyness but shyness in and of itself is not a psychiatric disorder, especially if it does not impair your daily function or your daily life.
- Performance Anxiety
When you have performance anxiety, that means that when you have to do certain activities in front of other people or even in front of one person, you can develop anxiety, nervousness, or anxiousness. For example, if you have to do public speaking, you might start sweating, feel flushed or get really, really nervous like you can't do it. Or if you are in intimate situations, you may develop anxiety and not be able to function.
Social Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis
So how can social anxiety disorder be diagnosed? If you feel like you have some of these symptoms I've mentioned, then consult your physician. And if you already have a mental health care provider, speak with that provider, your psychologist, psychiatrist, psychotherapist, or your counselor.
They will give you a very detailed history and physical to see if you have a social anxiety disorder. And if you do, they will make the diagnosis, then they will give you the tools to manage or treat it.
Social Anxiety Treatment
So what is the treatment for social anxiety disorder? Well, one treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy. In this situation, the healthcare provider will have you talk to them about your behaviors and your feelings, where you have these behaviors, and which social situations they'd come up in. And then they will talk to you about how to deal with these behaviors and how to manage your anxiety.
For some patients with social anxiety disorder, treatment with medications can help, like antidepressants. So even if you don't actually have the diagnosis of depression, if you have a social anxiety disorder, we have found that certain antidepressants help like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or the SSRIs. Make sure, again, that you consult your physician and your mental health care provider to get the maximum treatment.