Guide to Understanding to Social Anxiety
What is social anxiety?
Social Anxiety Disorder is a type of anxiety that causes extreme fear in and out of social settings. It can be experienced by any range of people to varying degrees, and be elicited many different causes. Social anxiety or social phobias are characterized by feeling intense fear that they may be judged and watched by others. Those who experience social anxiety may also have negative thoughts leading up to social situations, which ultimately leads to fear and avoidance.
Social anxiety can affect one’s ability to attend school or work, participate in social functions and develop close relationships. It can be all encompassing, or specific to certain situations. Every case can be different. Those with social anxiety may also be afraid of developing relationships for fear that they will end it negativity, or cause someone else pain.
It’s important to understand that social anxiety is not shyness, because shyness isn't a personality trait that can disrupt one’s life as much as social anxiety does. Those who experience social anxiety can formerly be extremely extraverted and outgoing.
How is it caused?
It is difficult to determine the exact causes of social anxiety. Current studies suggest that it is caused by both environmental factors and genetics. A negative experience or series of negative experiences such as bullying, sexual assault or ongoing family conflict, can contribute to developing the disorder.
How can it be treated?
The most general treatment plan for social anxiety is psychotherapy. During psychotherapy, the patient simply speaks to a psychologist or mental health counselor (it is therefore often referred to as ‘talk therapy’).
Many cases of social anxiety will go undiagnosed, as the patient will feel anxiety about going to see a professional. They may also be hesitant to speak abbot their issues during psychotherapy sessions.
To be formally diagnosed, a patient will have to have experienced symptoms of withdrawal and avoidance from social situations and/or an intense, disruptive fear of being watched or judged for at least 6 months, in order to be diagnosed for social anxiety disorder. Many people may feel this way for shorter periods of time, but adapt back to normal feelings after.