Shy or Too Scared: Social Anxiety

According to Columbia Medical Centre researchers and the National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI), Social Anxiety  is the most common type of anxiety reported.

Social anxiety disorder,  also known as a social phobia, occurs when a person has an  unreasonable fear of social situations, of making mistakes, looking bad, or feeling humiliated, embarrassed or totally paralyzed by fear.   Physical symptoms are sweating, dizziness, shortness of breath, shallow breathing, sick stomach, confusion, blushing, faster heartbeat, headache, achiness. If a social anxiety is ignored it rarely gets better on its own. Anxiety about  a situation expands to minutes, hours, days or weeks before the event occurs in anticipation of the feared event.  A social phobia can also grow or link to panic attacks, depression, obsessiveness and physical ailments to name a few. It can also be misdiagnosed or start as something else and emerge into a social anxiety.  It almost always interferes with  normal daily routines at work, school, recreation, friends, strangers and health.

A person usually experiences distress in more than one scenario. Some examples of distressful situations are: speaking in front of others; delivering a report to a group;  being observed working; initiating a conversation with a stranger; returning goods at a store; entering a room where everyone is already seated; being the centre of attention; or, eating in public.

A social anxiety is painful. People with a social anxiety feel that something is “wrong” and some may know they have excessive fear. Since they avoid stressful social experiences, they are out of practice and skills get rusty. They develop false or distorted thoughts about how they appear to others, or fear that if they are in public, some catastrophic outcome that will occur due to their behaviour. This is a catch 22 situation. As someone develops more fear of some unrealistic catastrophe, he or she avoids to protect oneself. As he or she avoids and feels crazy inside, it is less likely that these ideas will be vetted to another person. The saddest thing for people is that they suffer in silence. A social phobia  is reversible.

According the doctors at the Columbia Medical Centre and the American Psychiatric Association, social phobias can be treated successfully with psychotherapy or psychotherapy and medicine. One of the treatment methods is called Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). Just as a person learned this behaviour, it can be un-learned. You are not doomed to a life of anxiety. If you or someone may be suffering from one of these symptoms, contact a therapist trained in CBT and one who will work with you and other qualified professionals (such as someone from the medical field). We live in a great era where it is okay to talk about this stuff. There are many fantastic techniques a good therapist can share to help you get on your way to feeling better. Call Heidi Spiar for a free consultation.