inside: Tell all, answer all guide to social anxiety, Social Anxiety Disorder, and how to improve YOUR mental health.
Social Anxiety Disorder is found in over 15 million Americans and has yet to be diagnosed in countless others.
When I first heard of Social Anxiety Disorder, I had so many questions. Do I have social anxiety, or am I just shy? How do I overcome social anxiety? What are ways to treat social anxiety disorder? What are some of the signs of social anxiety? Do I have to medicate social anxiety, or are there natural ways to “get rid of” social anxiety?
When I had my first anxiety attack, I felt so weak and powerless. Emotional, and out of control of my mind . . . It was the most difficult experience of my life up until then. I couldn't compose myself no matter how I tried, and I quickly felt overwhelmed. It's a pain and helplessness I hope no one will ever face. You can see your actions and emotions spiraling out of control, but you're unable to do anything about it. I remember trying to speak, but my lips couldn't speak. I knew it was time for a change in my life. I needed to find out why this was happening to me and what I could do to fix it.
I am not a doctor, and I am not here to diagnose anyone. This is a guide to some common signs of social anxiety, and some answers to questions you may have about it. I suggest getting a doctor’s opinion if you think this represents you.
So here we are. Let's start at the beginning, and answer some of the most common questions about social anxiety (also known as social phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder). Maybe you think you have social anxiety, or you think your spouse or child has social anxiety.
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is often confused with other mental disorders and anxious behaviors.
Adults with social anxiety may have been especially quiet and withdrawn from others as children. As you aged, people may have looked at you as someone who was unfriendly or unapproachable.
I think that's where the issues with social anxiety really begin. It's a very complex disorder, and can truly affect anyone.
I was not a shy child. I talked to everyone and felt comfortable in groups up until adulthood. I was confident and outwardly happy.
I know others who have a fear they'll be ridiculed or laughed at, and others who have the hardest time with dealing with the physical experiences like increased heart rate. It's irresponsible to define it in one single statement.
Social Anxiety is so much more than all of those things. It can be certain triggers or situations.
It can cause me to react one way, and you to react another.
Some get panic attacks, others become dismissive and leave situations.
Some don't even put themselves in the situations at all.
This is why I think it's important to talk to a professional if you think you have any mental disorder, so you can find the correct relief for you.
What Are Physical Symptoms Associated with Social Anxiety?
As Social Anxiety is a type of anxiety, they share many of the same symptoms.
With this type of anxiety, we often feel more embarrassed because we think everyone can see every symptom they have. However, this is rarely the case.
Usually, people don't see the symptoms unless you make it obvious or they know you very well.
Recently, I was telling my husband about something that made me very nervous and anxious. I was quickly getting overwhelmed, and he asked me how I was doing because I started fidgeting with my hands.
If he didn't know me he wouldn't have thought anything of that little quirk, but because he knows me so well, he knew what was up.
It was relieving to know I could open up to him and express my fears. I had his support regardless of what my anxiety was telling me, and he made sure I knew that.
Others may simply see someone who is shy around others or just quiet.
Who Suffers From Social Anxiety?
So. So. So. So many people.
15 million people in the US alone have been diagnosed, and countless others haven't been diagnosed. Approximately 36% of people don't get treatment for 10 years or longer.
Anxiety is a liar. It tells us so many lies to keep our world smaller and make us feel alone. We don't realize how common it is because our brains tell us we are alone in this suffering.
What Causes Anxiety?
Anxiety is typically a genetic trait, although it can be caused by other reasons.
This does not mean if your parent or grandparent has a type of anxiety you will definitely also suffer. It does mean you have a higher chance.
You could be the only one in your generation who inherited an anxiety disorder.
Another common cause for social anxiety is the environment around you. If you did not pick it up from genetics, you might have picked it up from the way people around you act.
Lastly, your brain. This is connected with genetics, of course, because your brain structure is something you are born with.
The amygdala is responsible for your fear response to various people and situations. If yours is overactive in your brain, it can cause you to have a higher-than-normal fear response.
This would cause anxiety and often social anxiety. If you find yourself fearful in many situations as well, you can likely blame your overactive amygdala for your social anxiety.
How can you help determine the cause of your anxiety? This is important because it will help you determine which treatment option is best.
You don't have to be like the majority of people with social anxiety who decide to skip treatment. It really is important you get help so you can go on to live a fulfilling and happy life.
If you want to figure out the cause ask yourself a few questions:
1. Does anyone in your family have anxiety?
2. Do you remember any family members showing anxiety symptoms in front of you? Or any symptoms you have that you have seen before?
3. Do you find yourself intensely fearful often?
These questions can help you find the best treatment for you.
What Are Common Triggers?
It's important to understand your personal triggers, and how to avoid them or deal with them. This isn't a permanent cure for anxiety, but it will help you with dealing with the daily struggles of anxiety.
Some common triggers of social anxiety are being the center of attention, being in a crowd of people, and meeting people for the first time.
My triggers are going to the grocery store with my youngest and driving someplace new.
To find your triggers, I recommend keeping a journal and documenting your anxiety. Eventually, you can look through your journal and find common themes, and you can narrow down your experiences until you find what causes your anxiety, and what you can avoid.
Avoiding triggers is the first step to reducing your anxiety, but it's not the only way.
Treatment Options For Anxiety
Treatment is entirely up to you and your doctor. I hesitate to even write this part.
I am not a doctor. I am not responsible for making your decisions about treatment for your anxiety. This is meant to be informational, not medical advice.
The first question you might ask yourself about medication, is why should I even bother taking medication for my anxiety? But what you should really ask is why not?
Why not have a treatment in place to make your life easier and more manageable? This is a conversation for you to have with your doctor.
There are a few different options for you. Here is a summary of a few options:
Anti – Anxiety Medication. The main difference between anti-anxiety medicine and antidepressants is anti-anxiety medicines are used for severe anxiety that comes during a moment of fear and panic. They are not meant to be taken daily as a long term medication. Instead, it should be used as something that works quickly to ease acute anxiety, such as before a big speech, or before you drive to a place you've never been before.
Antidepressants. Here is your long term medication that will help you with most of your symptoms. Make sure you look at the side effects involved with these.
Beta Blockers. These reduce your body's reaction to the symptoms like increased heart rate and sweating.
Talk to your doctor before you start any medication, and find what will work best for you in your situation.
Therapy is Another Great Treatment Option
In addition to taking medication, your doctor might suggest you go to therapy to deal with your anxiety.
Therapy will help you find coping skills to deal with your anxiety on a daily basis. I have found great success in Cognitive Behavior Therapy, a type of therapy to deal with anxiety and depression. Here are a few books I recommend looking into:
Cognitive Behavior Therapy is not only getting to the root of your anxiety, but it's also fantastic for giving you the tools you need to live with your anxiety. Social anxiety doesn't have a “cure” so finding tools to keep a handle on it moving forward is important.
This type of therapy teaches you how to change your thoughts from the toxic self-defeating mindset to positive thoughts. It takes time and patience, like any other treatment. Keep learning and improving and your life will keep getting better. If you find yourself currently struggling with social anxiety, the hardest step is that first one. You're here now, you found this page. You know there is an issue . . . now take this knowledge and go find help.
How Can I Get Help?
The hardest step is admitting to yourself something is wrong and you need help. So where can you get help now?
1. Find out if your insurance covers it – Money is an issue when people are deciding whether or not they should try therapy. The first step is to find out if it's covered in your insurance policy. If not, there are still plenty of financing options.
2. Ask your general practitioner for referrals. Choosing a therapist is another hurdle you must go through. Your regular family doctor might have some ideas, or be able to give you some direction to find someone.
3. Talk to friends or family who go to therapy . . . especially if they have gone for anxiety.
4. Research different therapists in your area and what they treat. You might want someone who treats with Cognitive Behavior Therapy and also specializes in social anxiety.
Daily Changes To Help Your Social Anxiety
I touch on this a lot in other posts, so I'll link to them here.