Social Anxiety Disorder is perhaps the most common psychological disorder in the United States today. For sufferers of this disorder, every social interaction seems trying – they feel self-conscious, almost loathing, and extreme fear. Anxiety is almost an understatement. It is more of a phobia. Parties are out of the question for many, family dinners can be difficult, school and work impossible, and even simple things like going to a restaurant are really tough.
How to Diagnose
The emotional symptoms are the most obvious, but when these start to influence your behavior and even express themselves physically, it is time to confront the problem.
First, look for:
Anxiety when others look at you
Fear of being around strangers
Overly self-conscious thoughts and fears
Worrying about being judged by complete strangers
If these thoughts and feelings become so bad that any of the following happens, talk to a doctor:
An inability to make eye contact
Social Anxiety Disorder can easily impact work and school for the worse. It’s important to start treating for it in order to retain your life.
Remember, avoiding social situations is not a solution. It can reinforce the problem, ultimately making it worse.
Eventually, you may not be able to do even the most ordinary things:
Making small talk
Going out to eat
Meeting new people
Talking to clients
Talking on the phone
Using a public restroom
Scientists aren’t sure what the causes are, but…
They may have something to do with a combination of three factors.
No gene has been isolated that influences this, but given that the disorder seems to run in families, this could well be an important factor. While some scientists suggest that this tendency was actually a result of learned behavior, new evidence suggests that there indeed may be a genetic component.
Imbalances in neurotransmitters like serotonin might make people have a hard time regulating mood and emotions.
This is the oldest part of the brain, evolutionarily speaking. It regulates fear. If we have an elevated “fear-response” to certain stimuli, the amygdala is usually involved.
How to Treat It
The most effective way to really help long-term is to undergo Cognitive Behavior Therapy. This helps over 3/4 of patients. The essence of the therapy is to control the types of thoughts and processes your mind undergoes to give you back control. Often this includes exposing you to social situations and teaching you stress techniques.
Medication(s) are used to help treat the symptoms and allow you to regain your functionality in your personal and professional life. Often, these are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Other antidepressants and beta-blockers are also very common.
Many find that the best way to control the symptoms is to use benzodiazepine drugs like Xanax. These are medications that control anxiety, giving you both instant and prolonged relief from symptoms. Xanax is a sort of specialist drug here, so ask your doctor to look into using Xanax as part of your treatment.
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