Social Anxiety Disorder is a type of phobia that is classified as an anxiety disorder. This syndrome tends to have an early onset due to a complex interaction between endogenous and exogenous factors. Adequate care is required to minimize adverse effects on study, work and social relationships.
What is social anxiety?
Social Anxiety Disorder is also known by another name, social anxiety disorder. It is an anxiety disorder characterized by disproportionately high levels of fear, stress, and anxiety in social situations.
This syndrome tends to have an early onset between the ages of 11 and 19. Of these, the incidence is higher in women than in men. Similar to other anxiety disorders, social anxiety disorder is caused by a complex interaction between endogenous and exogenous factors.
For people with social anxiety disorder, fear, anxiety, and stress are always present. Even before very normal social situations such as starting a conversation with others, talking on the phone, speaking in public, going to the public toilet, etc.
When suffering from this disorder, the sufferer always has the impression that people are paying attention, judging, and commenting on themselves. Besides, they also predict the worst consequences if they participate in communication situations.
Too much anxiety and fear can make the patient avoid and shy away from meeting and communicating. This has many serious effects on study, work and quality of life. In the absence of treatment intervention, fear can cause the patient to withdraw and live completely dependent on the family.
Causes of social anxiety
The exact cause of social anxiety disorder is still unknown. However, through many studies and surveys, experts say this syndrome is related to genetic factors and environmental influences.
Causes and factors that increase your risk of social anxiety include:
1. Genetic factors
Anxiety disorders in general and social anxiety disorders in particular are familial. However, to date, there have been no specific studies on how genes affect the formation of social phobia. But most people with the condition have a relative with an anxiety disorder or some related mental illness.
2. Abnormalities in brain structure and activity
An imbalance of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that regulates mood, has been identified as one of the causes of psychological abnormalities. This includes social anxiety.
When imaging the brain of people with this syndrome, experts found that the amygdala was overactive. Meanwhile, the amygdala is responsible for controlling fear and anxiety. This overactive organ can increase the risk of psychological and behavioral disorders.
3. Living environment
In addition to genetic factors and brain abnormalities, the environment can also affect and cause social anxiety syndrome. Experts say that young children are more likely to get this syndrome because parents are overprotective or controlling. In addition, children can also learn abnormal behaviors from parents or siblings with this disorder.
4. Other factors
Like other anxiety disorders, social anxiety disorder is often caused by a complex interaction between many factors. In addition to the common causes mentioned, the risk of this syndrome is also significantly increased when some of the following risk factors are present:
- Family history of social anxiety disorder or similar phobia
- Psychological trauma (abuse, family conflict, serious trauma, past ridicule, humiliation and bullying)
- Shyness, timidity, lack of confidence
- Change of job or living environment
- Having Parkinson’s disease, having defects in appearance such as a deformed face, stuttering, etc.
Signs of social anxiety
First of all, you need to know that agoraphobia is not the same as a normal stress response to important situations. Knowing the symptoms of this syndrome will help you detect it early and be proactive in the treatment process.
Typical symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:
- Anxiety and stress about social situations persist for a long time, which can last for weeks to months.
- Feeling excessively anxious or restless about social situations that are not too special or serious.
- Always afraid of shame and humiliation.
- Feelings of fear often increase when others observe or tend to evaluate and criticize their own behaviors. Especially from people you don’t know.
- Fear of talking or interacting with strangers.
- Fear that others will notice your stress and confusion.
- There is always anxiety about activities or social events that have never happened.
- Excessive anxiety and stress make the sufferer tend to avoid social situations as much as possible. This seriously affects the process of working and learning. It also significantly reduces quality of life.
- There is anticipation of the most likely negative consequences in social situations.
In addition to the psychological manifestations, social anxiety syndrome also causes a number of physical symptoms. Consists of:
- Red face
- Breathe fast and sometimes feel choked
- Shaky hands and voice
- Feeling nauseous, nauseous
- Feeling dizzy, lethargic
- Discomfort in the stomach area
- Muscle tension
- Steal sweat
- Heart beats faster
Particularly in the case of young children, excessive anxiety about social activities and situations can manifest in symptoms such as fussiness, irritability, and refusal to leave parents.
People with social anxiety disorder tend to avoid certain social situations, such as:
- Go to work or go to school
- Participate in parties with a lot of strangers
- Chat or interact with strangers
- Fear or avoid making eye contact
- Has difficulty and tends to avoid starting conversations
- Using toilets or public services
- Eating and drinking in front of other people, especially those you don’t know
When faced with social situations, sufferers often show deep fear, anxiety, and insecurity. There are also some accompanying physical symptoms. They will cause the person to make an effort to avoid all social situations. This helps the patient feel more comfortable and secure. However, this avoidance causes many inconveniences and greatly affects the quality of life.
Effects of social anxiety
Basically, excessive anxiety or fear of social situations does not threaten health. Patients often tend to reassure themselves by avoiding situations or activities that trigger negative emotions.
However, avoidance of social situations is only a temporary countermeasure. Without proper attention and early treatment, social anxiety disorder can cause many problems. Especially affecting the results of study and work and cracking social relationships.
In fact, people with social anxiety disorder experience anxiety and insecurity when interacting with strangers. Therefore, about 36% of cases do not seek help within the first 10 years. This is also considered the biggest obstacle that makes patients always passive in examination and treatment.
Social anxiety disorder can cause some of the following effects:
- Abuse of alcohol, tobacco and drugs.
- Form a mentality of lack of confidence, indecisiveness and always low self-esteem.
- Low self-respect.
- Poor social skills due to excessive anxiety and fear dominate communication.
- In the long term, the patient is unable to perform social activities and tends to separate from the community, isolating himself (just prefers to stay at home and socialize by himself).
- Isolation for too long accompanied by excessive fear of social activities leaves the patient in a state of loneliness and loss.
- Having suicidal thoughts and behavior. Especially in the case of patients using drugs.
In addition, social anxiety syndrome is likely to increase the risk of other mental illnesses. For example, psychosis due to alcohol, drugs or depression. At the same time, it can aggravate or increase the risk of chronic health problems. Typically, shoulder and neck pain, sciatica, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, etc.
Ways to overcome social anxiety
As analyzed above, social anxiety syndrome can cause many health problems and long-term quality of life. Therefore, when you notice the symptoms of the disease, you need to actively consult a doctor.
The doctor will first collect your symptoms, take a medical history as well as factors that increase your risk of disease. A definitive diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan will then be made.
Treatment for social anxiety disorder depends on the symptoms and the extent to which it is affecting school, career, and social relationships. Your doctor may recommend psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both.
Methods that may be used to treat social anxiety disorder include:
Psychotherapy is the method used for most people with social anxiety disorder. Through psychotherapy, the person himself can clearly perceive the severity of social situations. Thereby, you will slowly change your negative thoughts and develop more skills to feel more comfortable and confident in social situations or activities.
There are many techniques used by people with social anxiety disorder. Among them, cognitive-behavioral therapy is considered to be the most effective. This therapy helps people change their thoughts and habits by directly confronting social situations that cause feelings of anxiety and fear.
Psychotherapy usually lasts at least 12 weeks. During this time, the patient will be assigned homework by the specialist to gradually change cognition and behavior.
In addition to individual therapy, psychotherapy can also be done with couples or families. This helps relatives understand basic information about the disease. From there, there is support to help patients overcome phobias or fears about social situations.
2. Drug treatment
Along with psychotherapy, medication is also the main treatment for social anxiety disorder. The preferred choice for pharmacotherapy is antidepressants. The most common are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. In cases of poor response or no response, the doctor may consider prescribing another medication.
Prescription medications may include:
Antidepressants are considered the first choice in the treatment of social anxiety disorder. Among them, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly used drugs. This group of drugs is very effective and has very few side effects.
In addition to SSRIs, patients may also be prescribed a number of other medications. Examples include monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs).
Antidepressants such as MAOIs, SNRIs, and TCAs are usually used in low doses, then gradually increased until the maximum dose is reached. This class of drugs has a relatively slow effect. It usually takes weeks to months, depending on the response, for the drug to take effect.
Benzodiazepines are anxiolytics that can be used to reduce anxiety levels in people with social anxiety disorder. This class of drugs has the potential to be addictive, so should only be used when antidepressants fail to respond.
To limit side effects, doctors usually prescribe benzodiazepines for a short time. In case of long-term use of the drug, it is necessary to gradually reduce the dose to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Beta-blockers have the ability to block the effects of epinephrine to relieve symptoms of autonomic dysfunction. Such as trembling limbs and voice, increased blood pressure, pounding heart, etc.
This group of drugs is often used when patients have to face social situations such as dating, seeing eyes, speaking in public, etc. However, beta-blockers have many potential risks so they are not recommended to be used for treatment. Treatment of social anxiety disorder.
The degree of response to the drug in each case is completely different. Some patients experience rapid relief of symptoms after a short period of time. While others require long-term medication to prevent recurrence.
3. Other ways of support
Along with psychotherapy and medication, a number of other combined measures can significantly reduce the symptoms of social anxiety disorder. The purpose of supportive measures is to improve physical health and reduce anxiety and stress.
Measures to support the treatment of social anxiety syndrome include:
- Practicing yoga and meditating every day can help manage stress and anxiety. Currently, there are many studies that show that meditation brings positive improvements with social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
- Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine can increase anxiety. Therefore, patients should avoid using tobacco, coffee and alcohol.
- It is advisable to develop a healthy and balanced diet. It is best to get enough vitamins, minerals and healthy fats for the body from fresh foods.
- Spend at least 30 minutes a day doing physical activity to improve your health. Exercise promotes the production of the happy hormone endorphin, which helps you feel happy and upbeat. Thereby reducing negative emotions when suffering from social anxiety.
- Make sure to get enough sleep every day, night sleep should last at least 6 hours. In case of frequent insomnia, difficulty sleeping or not sleeping well, relaxation measures can be applied to improve sleep. For example, take a warm bath, listen to instrumental music, aromatherapy, etc.
- You should actively talk and interact with people who give you psychological comfort. Gradually you will become more open to the people around you.
- You can improve your own communication skills by joining some groups specifically for people with social anxiety.
Social anxiety disorder causes many troubles and interferes with study, work as well as social relationships. Hopefully, through the sharing from the article, you can understand more about this disease and know how to overcome it. In addition, family and friends also need support to increase motivation for the sick person.