What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?

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Everyone has times where they don’t feel like being around large groups of people. While it isn’t uncommon to feel shy from time to time, but making small talk with unfamiliar people or being forced to speak in public can be downright mortifying for people living with social anxiety disorder.

What separates social anxiety disorder (SAD) from the common feelings of discomfort when interacting with others is when the fear of criticism or rejection becomes chronic or debilitating. Those with SAD typically experience chronic feelings of incompetency or inferiority which can lead to overwhelming fear they will be rejected.

Nearly everyone fears rejection, but people living with SAD fear this in nearly every situation where they must be around others. These individuals also frequently report a belief that there is a high personal cost to being criticized which raises the stakes of every interaction.

SAD is characterized by high levels of self-consciousness, and those who experience the condition may feel that others can see or perceive this anxiety, compounding fears. Most commonly, individuals with SAD attempt to avoid social events as a means of managing their anxiety.

When social situations can’t be avoided, individuals with SAD will use more subtle ways of trying to prevent criticism, such as using alcohol as a social lubricant, mentally rehearsing conversations, or staying quiet. But these strategies can backfire and actually cause the criticism they were trying to prevent.

Social anxiety disorder also expresses itself in a myriad of physical ways including sweating, blushing, heart palpitations, trembling, and an urge to escape.

In an awful twist, individuals who experience SAD also frequently report feeling alone in their struggle, despite anxiety disorder being the most common mental illness in America. Social anxiety disorder affects nearly 15 million people across the country, and

While individuals who live with SAD may feel powerless against their anxiety, the truth is there is always help available. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be highly effective against social anxiety, and particularly resistant individuals can be prescribed medication to assist in therapy.

Social anxiety can slowly close off a person from the outside world until they feel completely isolated, but treatment can help open the world back up. If you or someone you know struggles with these feelings or experiences, seek professional assistance. You may not ever be the life of the party, but everyone should be able to attend evens without the constant fear and shame caused by SAD.

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