B.A. Hons . Psychology, MA Psychological Counseling, EDM Psychological Counseling, Trauma Specialist, MPhil Clincal Psychology
Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is an anxiety disorder in which a person has an excessive and unreasonable fear of social situations. Anxiety (intense nervousness) and self-consciousness arise from a fear of being closely watched, judged, and criticized by others.
A person with social anxiety disorder is afraid that he or she will make mistakes, look bad, and be embarrassed or humiliated in front of others. The fear may be made worse by a lack of social skills or experience in social situations. The anxiety can build into a panic attack. As a result of the fear, the person endures certain social situations in extreme distress or may avoid them altogether. In addition, people with social anxiety disorder often suffer" anticipatory" anxiety -- the fear of a situation before it even happens -- for days or weeks before the event. In many cases, the person is aware that the fear is unreasonable, yet is unable to overcome it.
Most people who have social anxiety recognize that their fear is excessive or unreasonable. They seek to avoid any of the feared situations in their life. If they are forced into one of their feared situations, they experience it with intense anxiety.
Research indicates that women outnumber men three to two among those with symptoms of social phobia. Men, however, have been more likely to seek treatment.
A variety of studies have demonstrated that social phobia is most likely to develop in the teenage years, though it can start earlier or later. Mental health professionals report that many people suffer quietly for years, looking for help only when their fears have precipitated a major life crisis.
*social anxiety disorder is readily treated through a combination of psychotherapy and medications.
Types of social phobia
For some people, almost any social circumstance is a cause for fear and anxiety. These individuals are said to have generalized social phobia. People for whom just one or two situations produce anxiety are considered to have the nongeneralized form of the disorder.
Some researchers have suggested that another way to group people with social anxiety disorder is based on the kind of situation that triggers anxiety. Two primary categories have been proposed: performance and interactional.
The performance group includes people who have strong anxiety at the idea of doing something in front of, or in the presence of, other people. Such situations include dining out, working, giving a speech or using a public restroom.
The interactional group includes people whose fears center on circumstances where they have to converse or otherwise engage with others, such as meeting new people.
*mental health professionals also have recognized that some people develop symptoms of social phobia as an outgrowth of other medical or physical problems. Individuals with parkinson's disease, obesity, disfigurement or other conditions sometimes can have severe anxiety that their physical appearance or actions will attract attention and disdain. While sharing similar symptoms, the diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders specifically excludes a diagnosis of social phobia if the fears exhibited can be tied to these medical or physical conditions.
Specific symptoms of social anxiety
Social anxiety disorder is characterized by the presence of all of the following symptoms:
A significant and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others. The individual fears that he or she will act in a way (or show anxiety symptoms) that will be humiliating or embarrassing.
According to dsm-5, a diagnosis can also be given if the fear occurs exclusively in the context of social performance situations.
Exposure to the feared social situation almost invariably provokes anxiety, which may take the form of a situational bound or situationally predisposed panic attack. Note: in children, the anxiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, freezing, or shrinking from social situations with unfamiliar people.
The person recognizes that the fear is excessive or unreasonable. Note: in children, this feature may be absent.
The feared social or performance situations are avoided or else are endured with intense anxiety or distress.
The avoidance, anxious anticipation, or distress in the feared social or performance situation (s) interferes significantly with the person's normal routine, occupational (academic) functioning, or social activities or relationships, or there is marked distress about having the phobia.
In individuals under age 18 years, the duration is at least 6 months.
The fear or avoidance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e. G, a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition and is not better accounted for by another mental disorder.
If a general medical condition or another mental disorder is present, the fear in the first criteria is unrelated to it, e. G, the fear is not of stuttering, trembling in parkinson's disease, or exhibiting abnormal eating behavior in anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.