Social anxiety meaning is a mental health issue defined by a fear of being observed or judged by others in social context.

When you have a social anxiety disorder, your life may be disrupted by avoidance caused by fear and anxiety. Extreme stress may negatively impact your daily routines, relationships, job, studies, and other activities.

A social anxiety disorder can be a persistent mental health problem, but taking medication and developing coping mechanisms in psychotherapy might help you build confidence and enhance your social skills.

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Social Anxiety Meaning 

Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, refers to an overwhelming and long-term fear of social situations.

It is a common type of anxiety disorder. A person with social anxiety experiences symptoms of anxiety or fear when confronted with circumstances where they are observed, judged, or evaluated by others, such as;

  • speaking in front of an audience
  • interacting with strangers, dating
  • participating in a job interview
  • responding to a question in class 
  • interacting with a cashier in a store. 

In the US, 5.3 million people suffer from a social anxiety disorder. Typically developing in late childhood, a social anxiety disorder may resemble severe shyness or a need to avoid social situations or interactions. It usually starts while a person is a teenager, between the ages of 11 and 19. It affects females more commonly than males, and this gender disparity is pronounced in adolescence and early adulthood. Social anxiety can persist for a long time or perhaps a lifetime without therapy.

Here’s how to identify if your lack of social interaction has progressed from shyness to the point where you require medical attention.

Social Anxiety Symptoms and Causes 

Symptoms

Social anxiety can’t be confused with shyness. It’s a persistent worry that interferes with day-to-day activities, self-confidence, relationships, and life at work or school.

Many people worry about social settings occasionally, but those with social anxiety worry excessively before, during, and after them.

You may have social anxiety if any of the following symptoms appear to you:

  • You may avoid or worry about social activities like group chats, eating with company, and parties while worrying about everyday activities like meeting strangers, working, or shopping.
  • You always worry about doing something you think will make you look foolish, like blushing, sweating, or being incompetent.
  • Lastly, you may find it challenging to perform tasks when others are present – If you lack self-esteem, you may avoid eye contact, feel as though you are constantly being observed and scrutinized, fear criticism, or experience symptoms like nausea, shaking, sweating, or a racing heartbeat (palpitations)

Many people suffering from social anxiety also struggle with depression, generalized anxiety disorder, or panic disorder.

Also Read: Difference Between Panic Attack And Anxiety Attack

Causes

Social anxiety disorder most likely results from a complex mix of environmental and biological factors, similar to many other mental health disorders. Probable causes include:

Hereditary Traits

There is a familial tendency for anxiety problems. Changes in a gene known as SLCGA4, which transports the neurotransmitter serotonin, a substance that can help calm nerves and stabilize emotions, have been the subject of a recent study into particular genetic markers for social anxiety. 

Moreover, social anxiety symptoms have been associated with both serotonin shortages and excesses, and individuals with social anxiety disorder have difficulty producing serotonin continuously and without fluctuation. SLCGA4 gene performance abnormalities, which can be transferred from parents to children, are associated with this issue.

Brain layout

The amygdala, pronounced “ah-MIG-duh-luh,” is a part of the brain that may be involved in regulating the fear response. People with an overactive amygdala can experience a more intense fear reaction, making them more anxious in social circumstances.

Environment

Some people may experience severe anxiety after being in an uncomfortable or embarrassing social situation, suggesting that social anxiety may be a learned behavior. Additionally, there may be a link between social phobia and parents who are either more overprotective or controlling of their kids or who exhibit anxious behavior in social circumstances.

Social Anxiety Treatment 

Social anxiety treatments include behavioral therapy and prescription medication. Both might come to you at once. Here are a few specifics for each:

Behavioral Therapy

Working with a qualified therapist to recognize and modify your nervous thoughts about social situations is called behavioral therapy. 

With the help of a therapist, you can change harmful thought patterns and behaviors by participating in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This can be performed individually, in a group, or with your parents or other caregivers.

Medications

Taking prescription medication is sometimes a quick and efficient way to treat social anxiety disorder. The medications function by lessening the troublesome and frequently unpleasant symptoms. 

Antidepressant medicines, typically a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor or SSRI, such as sertraline or escitalopram, are also used for treatment. Usually, those under the age of 15 are not treated with these.

Social Anxiety Complications 

A social anxiety disorder may take over your life if it is not treated. Social anxiety can prevent one from enjoying life, relationships, job, or school. This condition may result in the following:

  • Low sense of self-esteem
  • Lack of assertiveness
  • Self-critical thoughts
  • Being extremely sensitive to criticism
  • Inadequate social skills
  • Isolation and challenging social interactions
  • Low success in school and at work
  • Drug abuse, such as abusing alcohol by consuming too much of it
  • Suicide or suicidal behaviors

Social anxiety disorder frequently co-occurs with other anxiety disorders and specific other mental health conditions, including substance abuse issues and major depressive disorder.

Prevention and things you can try when social anxiety come 

Although it is impossible to predict what will lead someone to acquire an anxiety disorder, there are activities you can do to lessen the severity of symptoms if you experience social anxiety:

Get help as soon as possible

Waiting to get treatment for anxiety, like other mental health issues, will make it more difficult.

Write a journal

By keeping track of your personal life, you and your mental health practitioner can determine what’s stressing you out and what seems to make you feel better.

Focus on your priorities

By carefully balancing your time and energy, you can lessen tension. Make sure to spend time engaging in activities you enjoy. Learn stress-reducing skills and get physical exercise.

Also Read: How To Stop Overthinking In 7 Ways

Avoid using drugs and alcohol

The use of nicotine or caffeine, as well as alcohol and other drugs, can increase or worsen anxiety. Quitting one of these substances can make you anxious if you are addicted to it. If you cannot stop using tobacco, speak with your doctor, look for a support group or treatment program, or discover one online.

When to seek a psychologist or psychiatrist 

It is crucial to understand that having social anxiety is not abnormal. If you suspect you have social anxiety, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor, especially if it’s significantly affecting your life. To learn more about your social anxiety, they will probe you about your emotions, actions, and symptoms.

You will have to seek a mental health professional (a psychologist or psychiatrist) for a thorough evaluation and to discuss available therapies if they suspect you may have social anxiety. Untreated social anxiety disorder may result to depression, problems with drugs or alcohol, school or job issues, and poor quality of life.

Final Thoughts

Social anxiety disorder is a prevalent mental health problem. Among the symptoms are a severe dread of being joked at and a strong urge to avoid social situations. The disorder can be crippling when severe or untreated. However, people can significantly enhance their quality of life with effective interventions, including behavioral therapies, medications, or both.

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