Are you very self-conscious in everyday social situations? Do you avoid meeting or interacting with new groups of people? An estimated 15 million, or 7%, of American adults have social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also commonly known as social phobia, is a mental health (brain chemical imbalance) disorder that causes extreme anxiety and fear in social settings. People who have this disorder have difficulties meeting new people, talking to people, and attending social gatherings. If you experience any or all of these symptoms and feel it is affecting your everyday life, you may have a social anxiety disorder. Although these feelings may seem consuming, there are ways to manage them so that you can start enjoying social events and interacting with people.
What is Social Anxiety?
Most people have experienced a time where they feel nervous or uncomfortable in a specific social situation. Maybe you have gotten a rush of nerves before a big presentation or got clammy hands meeting someone new. Most of us at one time or another have experienced a physical reaction to stressful situations, however, most people can get through them. If you have social anxiety, these interactions can cause a variety of physical and psychological symptoms. Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is defined as a disorder in which everyday interactions cause significant anxiety, embarrassment, and self-consciousness due to the fear of being judged or scrutinized negatively by others.
Social anxiety disorder causes physical and psychological symptoms including physical symptoms of rapid heart rate, excessive sweating, difficulty speaking and nausea. The psychological symptoms associated with social anxiety may include constant worry for days or weeks prior to an event, missing school or work because of anxiety, worrying about embarrassing yourself in a social situation, and avoiding social situations altogether. It’s normal to sometimes feel shy or nervous; however, when you have a constant fear of social situations due to the worry of judgment or humiliation it may be time to get professional help.
What Triggers Social Anxiety?
In mental health terminology, an anxiety trigger refers to something that has an effect on your emotional state by causing extreme distress. Some common triggers associated with social anxiety disorder include parties and social gatherings, eating in front of others, performances, stating your opinion, speaking on the phone, and even using the public restroom. Most people with a social anxiety disorder identify three or four situations that cause an overwhelming anxious reaction.
If you have mild to moderate social anxiety there are many ways to help manage your symptoms and make daily living more enjoyable. Preparation is a crucial part of coping with anxiety triggers, such as rehearsing a script before a big presentation or setting a time limit for yourself before attending a large party or event. With the proper treatment and help from a mental health professional, you can learn ways to cope with and manage the symptoms of a social anxiety disorder.
The Rise of Social Anxiety Due to the Pandemic
For some people, the pandemic disrupted the daily routine and rhythm of society. Many found themselves isolated from work, school, and social activities. However, for those with a social anxiety disorder, this period during the pandemic was a breath of fresh air. Living life mostly apart from society has been a relief for socially-anxious people and they are in no rush to get back to a pre-pandemic life. However, now that vaccines are becoming available and restrictions begin to lift, the anxiety for this group of people is starting to return. How will those who have a social anxiety disorder transition back into the societal norm of everyday life?
If this sounds like you, start by taking small steps towards managing your social anxiety, whether that be going out to the store or driving to your workplace and walking around. The more exposure you have to the triggers and stimuli you fear, the easier it will be to manage your anxiety in those situations. Gradually, adding social norms back into your life will help you transition back into the pre-pandemic lifestyle.
Living with social anxiety disorder may be challenging, but you have options. There are many ways to help manage and overcome social anxiety triggers and reduce symptoms. If you have been experiencing a social anxiety disorder and feel as though it is negatively affecting your everyday life, call us for a consultation with Dr. Sambunaris for a diagnostic evaluation and treatment plan so you can get back to socializing!
About the author: Renee Posa serves as a writer for the blog of Dr. Sambunaris and Associates. She currently holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Kennesaw State University and is further pursuing a career towards nursing at Chamberlain University. Long-term she hopes to complete her BSN so that she can continue educating patients.