Social anxiety is sometimes called social phobia. As the name suggests it occurs in people who suffer anxiety when they are put in or about to be put in social situations. In fact the very thought of being in a social situation often causes the anxiety to begin.
It is important to make a distinction between a person being mildly anxious about meeting up with people and a person that suffers from social anxiety. People who suffer from social phobia aren’t just a little scared of social events, they have an unreasonable fear of social situations. They have a fear of being judged, watched or criticized by other people which causes their social anxiety. And the feeling is overwhelming, forcing them to avoid social events.
There are two distinct areas of social anxiety.
- Performance. Anxiety caused by your actions and what you do. Public speaking could be an example of a cause of anxiety.
- Interactions. Talking to people and interacting with them.
Social anxiety disorder is a recognized phobia that can be treated by your doctor, if you think you may be suffering from it, get help now!
Social Anxiety Symptoms
There are a few distinct symptoms that you may be suffering from social anxiety but, as with many other areas of anxiety, worry is at its core.
You will worry excessively about a social event. And not just before the event. The sufferer will worry before, during and after the event.
What do they worry about? Mainly the other people at the event. They worry that the other people are judging them and watching what they are doing. They worry about doing something wrong and embarrassing themselves. They worry that they are sweating to much or that they look like they are too warm. They worry about how they look. They worry about looking uncomfortable in the situation. They worry about everything to do with the situation!
Some common symptoms to look for are:
- Low self esteem and doubting relationships…..Why would he want to be with me?…
- Fear of being criticized or judged.
- Avoiding eye contact
Somebody who is suffering from social phobia will dread and often try to avoid everyday situations like:
- Eating with others
- Meeting people
- Going to parties
- Speaking on the telephone
- Working in an open plan office
- Talking to new people
- Talking in groups of people
- Meeting new people
Often the fear of a social event will lead to a panic attack.
Social Anxiety in Children
In children social anxiety often shows itself as emotional outbursts such as tantrums and crying but it may also lead to them having a fear of taking part in class or even going to school in the first place.
Generally children with the phobia will have the same fears as adults or teenagers. They still fear being judged and they still fear that people are watching them.
Anxiety in children needs to be treated urgently. It can lead to depression and anxiety later in life if it isn’t dealt with now.
There are treatments available. The first option should always be behavioral therapy but pharmacological solutions are also available if therapy prove ineffective.
Social Anxiety Therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy
Therapy is always the first choice and is usually very effective in treating social phobia. CBT tries to establish your beliefs and ideas that are causing your anxiety and then helps you react positively to social situations rather than anxiety.
Gradually you may be exposed to the very things that are causing the anxiety in the hope that these will then be seen as everyday situations and the anxiety will diminish.
If CBT is not effective you will likely be prescribed antidepressants. They do work but you should give CBT a try first as the antidepressants are not an ideal solution for a number of reasons:
- They come with side effects
- You need to take them long term
- You will likely need CBT as well anyway
Psychotherapy is all about talking to a professional therapist. They will try and teach you new social skills to try and curb your anxiety about the situation.
It also allows you to see your deeper problems that are causing the anxiety in the first place.