Do you hate crowds? Do you hate the idea of getting involved in a party when there will be a lot of people there, and just the thought of that is enough to make you wretch? Do you plan your schedule, your commuting back and forth to work, and even your meal times to avoid people as much as possible? There are many people who would just call you a severe introvert, but if you feel noticeable fear around people in social situations, what you have may not be simply an introverted personality. You may have a social anxiety disorder. If you do, then you are not alone, because millions of people suffer from social anxiety disorders.
What Is a Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety, or social phobia, is what occurs when someone has an irrational fear of social situations. For example, they may think that they will always be injured or they will always be embarrassed by something or they will always find people that hate them in any social event. Now this can be a normal feeling for everyone some of the time, but for the person who suffers from social anxiety, this is an ongoing and persistent feeling that never goes away. This causes them to be overly self-conscious about every aspect of themselves every day, including how they dress, how they speak, what they say, what the style of their hair is, the kinds of sunglasses they wear, the type of shoes they wear, everything. It can be one specific type of situation that causes the anxiety, such as talking on the phone with a stranger, or it could be a full on general anxiety that includes every situation.
How Do I Know If I Have a Social Anxiety Disorder?
The first means of gauging if you have a social anxiety disorder is to determine if there are social situations that you prefer to avoid due to fear of what might happen if you encounter them. What kind of situations are we talking about? It could be:
- Meeting new people
- Having a meal, a drink, or working in public places
- Speaking in a public setting
- Going to a social gathering, like a party or a corporate event
- Having to utilize a public restroom
If you feel like you purposely avoid these situations out of fear of what might happen to you, then you might experience these physical symptoms as well:
- Unexplained sweating
- Cold, clammy skin
- Problems speaking
- Elevated blood pressure
The combination of the feeling and one or more of these physical symptoms is enough for most people to be diagnosed with having a social anxiety disorder.
How Can I Overcome a Social Anxiety Disorder?
There are a few effective ways of defeating a social anxiety disorder. One of the most common methods is through exposure to the situations in a private setting, so that you slowly become desensitized to them while you imagine defeating the phobia. As you progress, you are slowly brought into real life situations where you can use the skills which you have been privately working on.
Some people feel like group therapy helps them. In a group therapy session, people discuss their fears, why they feel the way they feel, and then practice new techniques to cope with stressful situations.
For more extreme cases, antidepressants are sometimes prescribed to help correct a possible chemical imbalance which causes the thoughts and feelings that come with social anxiety. With such a chemical imbalance, your brain starts misfiring in certain areas, because there is something physically wrong with you. This can cause you to experience fear any number of social situations. By taking an antidepressant, you are able to correct the imbalance and therefore correct the fear.
Interestingly, researchers have found that both alcohol and caffeine can compound the feelings of fear and panic that arise in folks with social anxiety. It is recommended to eat regular meals, implement a daily exercise routine, and try to get enough sleep every night.
By recognizing the symptoms of social anxiety, both physical and mental, you’ll be able to overcome your fears with proper treatment and start living a much more normal life. It is not good to always live in fear, and when you fear social situations, that fear can occur every day and last until you return home. That’s obviously no way to live. If you feel like you are living in fear all of the time and have recognized that you suffer from social anxiety then schedule an appointment with your local medical professionals at your earliest convenience. Start defeating fear instead of succumbing to it.