Understanding Social Anxiety Disorder

Nervous girl looking into cameraSocial anxiety disorder (SAD) is a psychological condition that makes you feel anxious even in simple, everyday situations. Going to the grocery store can become a scary task. Meeting people and keeping up relationships can be very difficult, not to mention uncomfortable. There are solutions to help with SAD, but first you have to understand what SAD is.

What is SAD?

If you struggle with social anxiety, you might have a difficult time relating to other people in social settings. It is more than just being shy; it means that you could be afraid that others will always be judging you for any number of things. You might fear being inspected too closely by people.

Constant fear of the physical or emotional pain that comes from other people’s opinions of can lower your self-esteem. Some people who suffer from SAD live their lives cut off from people, crowded places, friends and family because they are more comfortable alone. They fall into solitary lifestyles which can make their suffering worse.

What causes SAD?

SAD has been linked to inherited traits, brain structure, and environmental factors. What does this mean? There is no single way to find the cause of SAD for everyone, but it can help you narrow down the reasons why you might have anxiety. You can look back on your life and what has happened to find clues that may help you find the reasons you have this condition.

SAD usually begins in poeple around 13 years old. And many people wait more than 10 years before they look for help or even realize that they have this disorder. SAD affects people’s emotions and behavior. It can have physical symptoms, too.

Symptoms:

Emotional and Behavioral

  • Fear of being judged by strangers
  • Worry that you will offend someone with something you say or do
  • Always focusing on your flaws in social settings
  • Expecting that the worst will happen when interacting with other people
  • Fear of the physical symptoms that are listed below

Physical

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Upset stomach or nausea
  • Trouble catching your breath
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Confusion or feeling “out of your body”
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle tension and headaches

One of the most common symptoms of SAD is avoiding normal social interactions. Going to the store or even answering the phone when someone calls can be uncomfortable. Some of these symptoms can come and go. You may have good days, followed by bad days. Everyone is different and some people have a more difficult time coping than others.There are many solutions that have worked for other people that could work for you as well.

Solutions:

Treatments that have been shown to work for many people include:

  • Psychological counseling
  • Medication
  • Learning coping skills
  • Exercises to gain confidence and improve your ability to interact with others

Someone I love suffers from SAD. What can I do?

One of the most important pieces of advice is “Don’t Give Up.” Disorders that affect mood and behavior can be very frustrating for the people who are experiencing the struggles. They can be difficult for those around them as well. Be patient and help in any way that you can. Again, everyone is different and you need to be aware of what has a positive effect and what does not. Here are a few ideas that may help them:

  • Practice social situations (eye contact, conversation, greetings, etc.)
  • Join a local or Internet-based support group
  • Get physical exercise or be physically active on a regular basis
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Limit or avoid caffeine
  • Form a relationship of trust with a medical professional who you can talk to about any changes

SAD can easily take hold of someone’s life, but that doesn’t have to happen. Find ways to help yourself or a loved one cope. Always be aware of the factors that could make things more difficult and avoid them when possible. Of course, if this disorder affects your life and your ability to work, you may need assistance from government programs meant to help.

Sources: http://www.adaa.org/http://www.mayoclinic.org/

Photo Credit: Maxwell GS on Flickr via CreativeCommons