Social anxiety disorder, sometimes referred to as SAD, affects millions of people all over the world.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “SAD affects 15 million adults or 7.1% of the U.S. population.”
Believe it or not though, many people may not even know they have it.
Dealing with something like SAD can cause a lot of fear and avoidance in everyday life.
This can be a result of negative thoughts about oneself, one's appearance, or one's performance in social situations.
These feelings can make it difficult or even impossible for someone living with SAD to function in these areas:
Honestly, any area of your life where interacting with others is required can trigger a person and make them anxious.
While this can be unsettling, it doesn't have to be completely debilitating.
There are ways to cope with the disorder and live a healthy social life.
Before we get into how to cope with social anxiety disorder (SAD), let’s take a closer look at what it is.
Social anxiety disorder is a mental disorder also known as social phobia.
It stems from an intense fear of being negatively judged by others in social situations.
When a person experiences social anxiety, they may feel:
This can happen even when no one is engaging with you while out in public. Simply being around other people can trigger these intense feelings.
It generally begins in childhood or early adolescence. The ADAA states that it typically begins around age 13.
This anxiety disorder can be triggered by a specific event. It could be being teased, bullied, or rejected by others.
In some cases, it may come on suddenly after the onset of a medical illness, major life change, or major stressor.
For example, a child being teased and bullied at school who experiences a death in the family could be affected by the disorder.
The National Institute of Mental Health reported that SAD affects females only slightly more than males. (Females 8%, Males 6.1%)
For many people with SAD, even basic social interactions can be extremely difficult and distressing. Symptoms of SAD can look like:
Things that can distress a person with SAD include, but aren't limited to:
These feelings can be made worse when there will be lots of unfamiliar faces.
When someone with SAD becomes overly anxious, it can make activities harder for them. It can make it difficult for them to leave their house, let alone their room.
As the anxiety intensifies, the desire to avoid triggering situations will grow too.
Even when someone tries to push themselves out of their comfort zone to socialize the impact of SAD is felt. Their fear of being judged or rejected is so strong that it paralyzes them into staying home.
The bad news is, most people who have it aren’t even aware it’s affecting them.
Because of this, a lot of people who need treatment for SAD don’t ever get it.
Or perhaps they think SAD is something "other" people suffer from - people who aren't like them in some way.
People suffering from SAD may feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about it.
They don’t want to share how difficult it can be to live their anxiety.
As a result, some people go years without getting the help they need to improve their quality of life.
Social anxiety disorder is diagnosed by a mental health professional. It can be a psychologist, psychiatrist, or clinically trained therapist
A diagnosis is based on:
Sadly, there aren't any brain scans or blood tests to determine if someone has social anxiety disorder.
Social anxiety disorder can be effectively treated through cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).
CBT is a kind of specialized talk therapy that aims to help patients understand the thoughts and feelings that contribute to their symptoms. They can learn coping skills for the future.
Medications such as anti-anxiety, antidepressants, and beta-blockers may also be prescribed.
However, this is usually only necessary for people who suffer from extreme physical symptoms. The symptoms include shaking, sweating, racing heart rate, etc.
More often than not, mental health professionals prefer CBT as their chosen treatment.
The following strategies may be helpful for coping with social anxiety disorder.
* Learn about your diagnosis. Educating yourself about social anxiety disorder. It can help you feel less alone and more empowered in dealing with it.
If possible, you may want to contact a local support group or online social network in your area.
You are not alone in feeling the way you do. Talking to other people who have SAD can provide additional support and encouragement.
* Take care of your physical health. Many people tend to neglect their physical health when they are struggling with a mental illness.
The trouble with not taking care of your physical health is that it can add fuel to your feelings of anxiety.
It's important to eat well, exercise, or get plenty of sleep.
* Cultivate your feelings of self-worth. It can be very difficult for people with SAD to develop an accurate sense of self-esteem. The reason for this is they tend to place their own value on what others think about them.
When you feel like you're not good enough, try to recognize it. Otherwise, even the smallest social encounter can send you spiraling out of control.
It is important not to lose sight of what makes you special. Focus on your positive traits and unique characteristics that make you who you are.
* Avoid alcohol and drugs. These substances may seem like a way to cope with social anxiety. In reality, they usually just make things worse in the long run.
If you find that you keep going back to alcohol or drugs to try and "feel better," consider speaking with a counselor. Find about what’s really making you want to escape your social anxiety with substances.
* Be mindful of your thoughts, feelings behaviors. Take some time every day to reflect. See if you can tell how the things you're thinking are affecting how you feel emotionally.
Take some time to consider your behaviors. See if you can tell which ones might be contributing to your heightened anxiety as well.
This may feel overwhelming at first. Gradually, it gets easier to manage your thoughts and feelings with practice.
Though it might feel strange to admit you're suffering from SAD, you're not alone. Is it time to make a change for the better?
SAD is a serious condition. It can significantly impact your ability to live life to the fullest.
Be aware of your symptoms, and seek professional help if needed. Practice healthy ways to cope with your social anxiety. You will find yourself feeling more in control of your condition.
You deserve to feel good whether there’s 10 people or 100 people in the room.
We get that it may seem scary to bring up this topic and admit you’re anxious. No one should feel they have to stay at home because of anxiety.
If you feel like your social anxiety is starting to take over your life, it's best to seek professional help.
Schedule online. It's easy, fast and secure.
Pathways Counseling Services therapists are fully trained in treating social anxiety disorders so you can live life to the fullest.
Pathways Counseling Services is the top-rated therapy and counseling service in Scottsdale, Arizona, year after year. We can help you live a happier and healthier life through effective and supportive mental health care. Book an appointment today, or you can reach us by phone at 480-235-1682