Understanding Social Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Hope

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A widespread yet underdiagnosed mental health issue that affects people of all ages and cultural backgrounds is social anxiety disorder (SAD). Finding out more about what to anticipate might be helpful if you or someone you know has been diagnosed with SAD or if you believe you may be exhibiting signs of the illness.

Social Anxiety Disorder: What Is It?

Individuals suffering with social anxiety disorder have an unreasonable dread of being seen, scrutinized, or facing embarrassment or humiliation. The intense discomfort and worry start to interfere with day-to-day activities. Even though it might be a crippling condition, recovery is achievable with the right care.

Why Do People Get Social Anxiety?

While it may initially manifest in childhood, social anxiety disorder often starts in adolescence. Although the precise etiology of SAD is uncertain, environmental and genetic factors are thought to have a combined role.

SAD has been connected to brain chemical imbalances. Social anxiety disorder, for instance, may arise as a result of an imbalance in the neurotransmitter serotonin, a brain molecule that controls mood and emotions.

Social anxiety has also been connected to hyperactivity of the amygdala, a brain structure. An heightened fear response and thus elevated anxiety may be a trait shared by individuals diagnosed with SAD. 

Your chance of having SAD may also be increased by a number of environmental variables. These consist of, but are not restricted to:

Being overly protective, controlling, or judgmental of one’s parents

being made fun of or bullied as a child

Sexual abuse or family strife

a disposition that was reserved, bashful, or timid as a kid

Signs of Social Anxiety Disorder

Even if those who suffer from social anxiety disorder are aware that their worry is unfounded, they are nevertheless powerless over it. The anxiety might be exclusive to a certain kind of social or performance setting, or it could be present in every setting.

Making eye contact, striking up a conversation, and connecting with strangers are a few instances that frequently set off triggers. Before, during, and after certain social and performance circumstances, people with social anxiety disorder may exhibit behavioral, bodily, and cognitive symptoms.

Cognitive symptoms examples include:

dreading social settings in which you are alone

Fearing that people would think poorly of you

Fear of being humiliated or ashamed

Believing that everyone will see how anxious you are

dreading things that will happen weeks in advance

Physical symptom examples include:


excessive perspiration

hands that tremble

Tension in the muscles

pounding heart

Social Anxiety

Making a Clinical Social Anxiety Diagnose

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, lists social anxiety disorder as a diagnosable mental condition (DSM-V).The World Health Organization (WHO) publishes the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10), which also lists it as a disease.

A clinical interview with a mental health expert, during which a patient is asked many questions about their symptoms, is typically used to diagnose SAD.

There are several particular diagnostic criteria that an individual must satisfy in order to acquire a diagnosis. Additionally, fear must be so intense that it seriously interferes with relationships, employment, education, everyday living, or one feels extremely distressed by their symptoms. 

One may be diagnosed with generalized or specific SAD, depending on whether symptoms are present in most aspects of life or just in a few instances. If you have symptoms of SAD, calling or emailing a therapist or mental health professional to schedule an appointment is the best course of action.

It’s a fantastic idea to start by discussing your feelings and opinions regarding your symptoms with your primary care physician. You will be well on your way to gaining a better grasp of your requirements as long as you are being honest in sharing some of your feelings. Don’t stress about where to begin. To begin, you may jot down a list of your symptoms so you have something to refer to during your consultation.

Handling Social Anxiety

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication are the two evidence-based therapies for social anxiety disorder that are most often utilized.For the optimum effects, these two therapeutic modalities are frequently combined. There are several alternative forms of treatment that may be utilized in conjunction to CBT, either individually or in a group setting.

Drugs used to treat SAD include:



Inhibitors of monoamine oxidase (MAOIs)

SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors,

Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors that are selective (SNRIs)

The following talk therapy are used to treat SAD:

The treatment of cognitive behavior (CBT)

Psychodynamic counseling

Therapy that is interpersonal (IPT)

The treatment of rational emotive behavior (REBT)

Therapy based on acceptance and commitment (ACT) 

Technology-assisted therapies for SAD include virtual reality exposure treatment, Internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy, and cognitive bias correction in addition to medicine and therapy.Additionally, some people turn to complementary therapies like hypnosis or nutritional supplements. Generally speaking, there is now insufficient study data to justify the use of alternative SAD therapies.

Self-Management Techniques

Self-help techniques for social anxiety disorder can be helpful in conjunction with conventional therapy or as a way to manage moderate symptoms. Here are a few techniques as examples:

Progressive muscular relaxation, autogenic training, guided visualization, and deep breathing are examples of relaxation techniques.

Keeping an eye on your own pessimistic ideas and swapping them out with constructive ones 

exposing oneself to frightening circumstances bit by bit

Using aromatherapy

Self-help publications

registering for internet forums in order to socialize

Good self-care practices include eating a balanced diet, exercising, and getting adequate sleep.

Self-help techniques can give you a greater sense of control over your symptoms, but they should never be used in place of medical care.

One of the most crucial aspects of treating social anxiety disorder is social competence improvement. People with SAD may have difficulties with a variety of social skills, mostly because they have never had the opportunity to practice.

Generally speaking, you should focus on honing your communication abilities, whether that means picking up some small talk techniques or getting a better sense of people’ body language.

Apart from seeking professional assistance, there are some other things you can do to help manage SAD. These include eating a well-balanced diet, obtaining enough sleep, and engaging in relaxation techniques.

It’s crucial to keep going into situations that give you anxiety.Avoidance will worsen your anxiety over time, even if it could lessen it in the near term. Reminding yourself that you can handle the situation, that worry is generally fleeting, and that your darkest worries are unlikely to come true might help if you start to feel nervous.

However, your quality of life can be significantly enhanced with appropriate care and continued therapy.

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