You may also hear social anxiety disorder (SAD) referred to as social phobia. This condition is the result of a very intense fear or anxiety of social evaluation, judgment and/or rejection. People suffering from SAD are constantly afraid of actually appearing to be anxious. They may be concerned that they are being seen as boring, awkward, or stupid. They may worry that social interactions will cause them to become tongue-tied or to shake or blush. This state of affairs can cause people with SAD to avoid any situation in which interaction is necessary.
When it's impossible to avoid social interactions, sufferers experience a great deal of distress and anxiety which may manifest as symptoms such as:
Even when people with SAD realize that their fears are unreasonable and excessive, they have little or no power to overcome these negative symptoms.
Is SAD Common?
In the United States of America, about fifteen million people over the age of eighteen are affected by this debilitating disorder. In fact, it is the second most frequently diagnosed anxiety disorder in the United States.
Most people begin experiencing SAD in their teenage years. This is typically following a childhood marked by an extreme amount of shyness. Even though shyness is often the precursor for SAD , it's important to realize that the two are not one and the same.
People suffering from SAD experience significant disruption of their activities of daily living. The fear of embarrassment, judgment and failure can prevent sufferers from even attempting job and educational opportunities. People who experience extreme anxiety and fear in social settings will naturally avoid social events, activities, friendships and even romantic relationships.
The debilitating aspects of SAD can lead sufferers to develop addictions, such as alcoholism and even more severe disorders such as major depression.
Why Do People Have SAD ?
This tendency can be inherited, but it can sometimes because by environmental circumstances and/or experiences. Research into SAD has found that very often people suffering from this condition misinterpret the behavior and motivations of others. Lack of social skills also contributes to the development of SAD . People who lack social skills may find it difficult to have satisfying discussions and conversations with others. This can naturally cause feelings of anxiety when contemplating talking with others.
How Do You Know You Have SAD ?
If you frequently experience significant fear of judgment by others, or if you feel very self-conscious and nervous when carrying out your activities of daily living, these are strong signs that you may be suffering from some degree of SAD . Further, if you have few or no friends and if you avoid situations in which you would need to meet new people, SAD may very well be to blame.
If you've had these feelings for six months or longer, and they are making the performance of your everyday tasks difficult, this is a further indication that SAD is the culprit.
SAD can produce these symptoms:
What Can Be Done?
Even though there are very effective treatments for this anxiety disorder, very few people who experience it actually go on to seek treatment. Naturally, the sheer nature of the disorder prevents the sufferer from making the connections necessary to attain treatment.
Severe SAD can prevent you from even performing the most mundane of tasks such as going to a store, doing your shopping and speaking with the clerk when you're done. These feelings can be very strong, and it's easy to believe that overcoming them is completely beyond you. This isn’t true, but making the arrangements to seek treatment can be rather daunting.
Before you begin any kind of treatment, you must first have a solid diagnosis. If you are afraid that you are suffering from SAD , talk with your doctor. He or she may perform a complete physical exam to rule out any health problems that may be causing your symptoms.
If your doctor does believe that your problem is caused by an anxiety disorder, he or she may refer you to a counselor, social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist for further treatment. This specialist can make a firm diagnosis.
Once your social anxiety disorder or social phobia is diagnosed, you may receive treatment through medication, counseling or psychotherapy or combination of these treatments. Lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise and meditation may also be recommended.