Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as Social Phobia, is a mental health condition in which the person experiences excessive fear or anxiety in normal social situations. This anxiety is often due to fears that others will judge or criticize the person. Examples of situations where individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder may experience fear include: having conversations, meeting new people, giving a speech or performance, or eating or drinking in front of others. For a person to be diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder, these situations must consistently provoke fear or anxiety; that is, it is the social situation itself, rather than a specific person or topic, which the individual fears.
Individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder may attempt to manage their anxiety in a number of ways. Where possible, they may avoid the feared interactions entirely. When this is not possible, they may take steps to minimize the risk of criticism, such as over-rehearsing what they will say or minimizing eye contact. In the short term, these strategies may decrease anxiety. However, in the long term, anxiety and fear of judgement increase, making it even more difficult to engage in social interactions.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder vary from person to person, but may include one or more of the following:
- Feelings of anxiety, embarrassment, or shame in ordinary social situations
- Having a surge of anxiety or feeling unable to speak when noticed or “put on the spot”
- Panic attacks linked to social situations
- Trembling, stammering, or crying in social settings
- Avoidance of activities like attending class, job hunting, shopping, using public restrooms, going to parties, and dating
- Freezing or shrinking in social situations
- Underestimating one’s own social skills
- Overestimating the likelihood that others are being critical or judgmental
- Minimizing eye contact in social situations
- Speaking softly or infrequently in conversations
- Rehearsing what will be said
- Thinking negatively about how one performed in previous interactions
We at The OCD & Anxiety Center specialize in the treatment of anxiety disorders including Social Anxiety Disorder, and have the necessary training and resources to deliver evidence-based treatment to Social Anxiety Disorder sufferers of all ages. We use Exposure and Response Prevention therapy (ERP) in the treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder, as this is the therapy treatment which has proven most effective for a range of anxiety disorders. Through ERP, individuals learn to face social interactions gradually, helping them gain confidence in their social abilities. We also make use of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, which helps individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder gauge the accuracy of their fears about being evaluated by others. If you or a loved one are suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder, we can help! Please reach out to us at (630) 522-3124 today!