Social Anxiety Disorder is one of the many types of anxiety disorders that affect 275 million people around the world. Onset of the condition can occur in children as young as five years old, or in adults 35 years or older, but typically onset peaks in an individual’s teen years.
If you have this disorder, you may experience an overwhelming sense of pressure or worry when faced with social interactions. Managing social anxiety is key in approaching and mitigating this disorder, but distinguishing this disorder from other anxiety disorders is the first step in coping.
What are Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety disorders can look different from person to person, but are usually characterized by their causes and symptoms. These can include the following:
- Generalized anxiety disorder: Patients may feel persistent fear or intense and overwhelming worry, often unrealistically or with little to no reason.
- Panic disorder: Patients feel the effects of their anxiety manifesting physically, resulting in a panic attack. When experiencing a panic attack, they may experience palpitations, trembling, sweating, difficulty breathing, and chest pains. Depending on the gravity of the symptoms, some intense panic attacks make patients feel as though they are choking or experiencing a heart attack, which may further escalate feelings of fear.
- Specific phobias: Phobias are defined as extreme aversion and fear towards specific objects or situations that may seem harmless to other people. Some of the most common phobias are acrophobia (fear of heights), claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), and aerophobia (fear of flying). Patients with phobias may experience distress and fear towards certain objects and scenarios, hindering them from participating in these situations that may not necessarily be harmful.
- Separation anxiety: Separation anxiety is not limited to children and adolescents, and can affect patients well into adulthood. When faced with separation anxiety, patients may experience an intense fear or worry of losing the people that they are most attached to – even feeling anxiety symptoms at the thought of being left behind or abandoned in any way. Patients may also find it difficult to be away from the objects of their attachment for any period of time, even to the point of showing symptoms of physical distress.
- Selective mutism: Observed most commonly in children, selective mutism prevents patients from speaking to others in situations that they are not familiar or comfortable with. They may feel comfortable speaking around close family or friends, but other situations will bring them anxiety to the point that they will find themselves unable to speak. Selective mutism may hinder them from social communication, making it difficult to form healthy connections with peers.
- Medication-induced anxiety disorder: Medication induced anxiety disorder causes patients to feel symptoms of anxiety brought on by the consumption of or withdrawal from certain substances. They may experience medication-induced anxiety disorder due to the misuse of drugs, incorrectly taking medications, exposure to a toxic substance, or withdrawal from drugs.
- Social anxiety disorder: Also referred to as social phobia, this disorder can bring intense and persistent feelings of worry or fear when placed in social situations. Regardless of the stakes or the context, social anxiety disorder can lead to an anxiety attack due to a fear of rejection, embarrassment, or being judged when interacting with people.
Different types of anxiety disorders also mean the need for a specialized approach. Our psychiatrists are trained to help you understand how to manage them, as well as how to identify the root of the problem.
What causes anxiety?
Anxiety is caused by a myriad of different reasons, and different anxiety disorders stem from different causes. Patientsmay also have a combination of two or more anxiety disorders, which means they would also have to take a more dynamic approach to address them. Some of the most common causes of anxiety are the following:
- Medical causes – Patients may experience anxiety as a result of a previously undetected health condition. Medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, thyroid problems, respiratory diseases, and chronic pain are among the most common medical causes of anxiety.
- Genetics – Patients with a family history of anxiety or mental illnesses are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder themselves. Genetics may play a role in transmitting disorders in families and as a result, anxiety can be hereditary.
- Environmental Stressors – Factors such as chronic stress brought about by a patient’s home life, career, or personal situations can contribute to causing or aggravating anxiety disorders. They may be more prone to experiencing social anxiety symptoms, especially when placed in highly stressful situations.
- Trauma – Patients who have endured abuse or witnessed a traumatic event, whether as a child or in their adult life, may be at risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Trauma also causes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which can lead to panic attacks.
How to deal with anxiety?
The treatment of anxiety disorders is a very nuanced process, and it requires different strategies and a personalized approach. Diagnosis is almost always the first step, followed by one of the many ways to treat anxiety, including:
- Counseling & Psychotherapy: Approaching a medical professional is a decisive step in managing anxiety disorders. You may approach a mental health provider to help you with strategies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or exposure therapy. To better understand how qualified medical professionals can guide you in managing social anxiety disorder, please read our FAQ.
- Medication: You may take medication prescribed by a qualified health professional to manage your mental and physical anxiety symptoms. Some common medicines prescribed to anxiety patients are antidepressants, benzodiazepines, tricyclics, and beta-blockers.
- Self-management: Taking steps to help yourself deal with anxiety allows you to take control of your disorder. This can come in the form of stress management, relaxation techniques, and building a support system.
Social anxiety disorder or social phobia may seem debilitating at times, but there are steps you can take in order to be able to cope and enjoy your life without letting your anxiety rule it. Finding strategies to help manage physical and mental symptoms is crucial in dealing with anxiety disorders.
Luckily, there are solutions that aim to make it easier to get the help you need. Take the first step towards understanding your condition and addressing your anxiety disorder and learn how EVA works today.