Here, you can find out everything you wanted to know about Social Anxiety Disorder (or at least we hope so!). You can click (or touch) each of the headings below to find out more about specific aspects of the condition.
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Social Anxiety Disorder is one of the most common anxiety disorders. It is a type of 'complex' phobia (more on that here). It impacts a person's confidence and their self-esteem. In a world where we can be more connected to other people than ever before, it can prove to be a very real problem.
Social anxiety disorder isn't the same as shyness. Those living with the condition, sometimes known as social phobia, will experience an intense, persistent and often overwhelming fear in social or performance situations. Whether that means speaking in front of other people, meeting new people, attending parties, dating, going to work / college / uni, using public toilets or even speaking to someone on the telephone, those living with the disorder will feel anxiety or a sense of dread when faced with all kinds of social situations.
When faced with the types of scenarios mentioned above (although it's not an exhaustive list), those with social anxiety disorder will worry that they will do, or say, something to embarrass or humiliate themselves. It does tend to be more common in women, but that's not to say men can't develop it.
Those with social anxiety disorder will often be very aware of the physical signs of their condition. The common symptoms of anxiety; sweating, increased heart rate, trembling voice or blushing cheeks will often become more of a problem, as they believe other people will notice these symptoms and judge them, even if this is not actually the case. As such, they will tend to avoid similar situations.
The symptoms are both psychological and physical. The physical symptoms can include:
- Feeling hot, blushing or sweating (which may develop into a rash).
- Dry mouth / throat.
- Losing train of thought.
- Shaking or trembling.
- Heart rate increase.
- Light-headed or dizzy.
The psychological symptoms include:
- Embarrassment, humiliation or shame.
- Anger or frustration.
- The fear of rejection or social exclusion.
Social Anxiety Disorder usually starts early in life, either during childhood or sometimes during adolescence, but that isn't always the case. Like most conditions, there's no hard and fast cause. It is generally thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental influences.
Social anxiety often runs in the family. If you have a close relative who is affected, then you may be more likely to exhibit the symptoms. Also, if your parents showed signs of social anxiety, including being over-protective, constantly criticising you or exaggerating the danger of strangers, then you may be affected too. It is important to stress that the link between genetics and learned behaviour is yet to be confirmed.
If you suffer with Social Anxiety Disorder, there may be some organisations on our Where To Turn pages that can help you. If not, and you know of one, please let us know and we'll look into it.
Also, if you'd like to share your experiences of living with social anxiety disorder with our community so they can better understand how it feels, please take a look at our 'Men Tell' section.