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Social Anxiety- Third most common mental disorder

19 Oct 2016

Feeling nervous or shy or even anxious in a social situation where we have the chance of being judged or scrutinized, is normal and most people face it in one case or the other. It could be a speech in front of an audience, or a presentation to a client, going for an interview, attending a party, reporting to your boss or even making small talk with your acquaintances.

These feelings may arise if you are meeting someone for the first time or even if you are in the company of your friends and family. The uneasiness and nervousness is understandable in case of such a situation and in the time period leading to it.

However, when these situations cause extreme anxiety and lead to intense fear of being judged or criticized and getting embarrassed, it is termed as social anxiety disorder. The person suffering from it feel fretfulness in day to day ordinary situations to such an intensity that they cannot carry out normal activities without strong discomfort and fear.

Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is a disorder in which a person is scared of being in a social situation and of social interactions to a great extent. Any circumstances which require interaction with people or presence in a public place is a matter of fright for those suffering from the disorder. They feel that every person or most of the people they meet and come across are either scrutinizing them or judging them. Also, they are constantly frightened of getting humiliated.

All these things could lead to a loss of confidence and give way to self-consciousness, distress, and avoidance. It may also cause few or no social or romantic relationships which may in turn result in in a feeling of shame or guilt.

There are cases in which people suffering from social anxiety disorder face difficulty only when they are the centre of attention. Most of the people though undergo distress in general social situations.

This disorder should never be thought of just shyness or nervousness and dismissed. It creates devastation in the lives of the people suffering from it and should receive appropriate medical attention.

The symptoms of social anxiety disorder include

Physical Symptoms

Blushing a lot

Shaking or trembling body and shaky voice

Sweating profusely when exposed to social situations

Increased heart rate and breathing rate

Numbness of the mind

Inability to concentrate

Nausea and dizziness

Muscle tension or stomach ache


Emotional Symptoms

Extreme worry/ anxiety

Intense fear

Helplessness and subsequent shamefulness

Sadness mixed with anger

Embarrassment and feeling humiliated


Behavioural Symptoms-

Dreading everyday activities

Lack in confidence and low self esteem

Urge to escape and avoid social situations

Trying hard not to draw any attention

Leaving the situation or keeping quiet a lot

Avoiding eye contact

No friendships or romantic relationships


Children with social anxiety disorder tend to throw many tantrums, exhibit clinging behavior, cry more than normal and freeze in some situations. As they grow older, they are afraid of going to school and of taking part in school performances and activities.

The adverse effects of this disorder are many and are extreme. The persons suffering know that their fear is unreasonable but they cannot help it. They feel powerless against it and hence are distraught.

A study in America revealed that 36 per cent of people with social anxiety disorder suffer for 10 or more years before they seek help of any kind. It is the third largest mental health care problem in the world today. It has been reported that at any time, 7 per cent of the population is affected by social phobia.

Fortunately, social anxiety disorder is treatable. The first step toward recovery is seeking professional aid. Consulting a psychologist is preferred over medication which is advised for extreme cases.

Cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT) is useful in curing the disorder. CBT involves changing your thought pattern and altering the way you feel or behave in a situation. Identifying your thinking approach, challenging your negative thoughts and then restructuring your thoughts or adopting alternate thoughts is the method.

Breathing exercises, meditation, support groups along with counselling and therapy can provide much needed help to the people suffering from social anxiety disorder and can help them lead a happy and stress free life.

You have to take help in order to help yourself!

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Tags: Social Anxiety, Anxiety