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Social Anxiety

It is normal to feel nervous and a little conscious when going on a first date or first public speech but when one becomes very conscious and intensely uncomfortable in everyday social situations, it might be an anxiety disorder, referred to as social phobia or social anxiety disorder.

Patients with social phobia are comfortable and can talk to family and few close friends but in social situations and gatherings they feel that everyone might be watching them and have a persistent fear of committing errors that will embarrass them in gathering. They even avoid making eye contact with other people. It prevents them from speaking and socialising. They know that their fears are irrational but are not able to overcome them. Thus they face difficulties at work, office and school. Instead of enjoying social activities they dread them.

Some people can talk normally with all but in certain situations and with certain people they become so anxious and uncomfortable that they do not talk at all. This form of social phobia is called Selective Mutism.

Symptoms

When the person is having social anxiety they sweat profusely, tremble, feel nausea, find it difficult to talk and some may also blush.

Both men and women are equally likely to have social anxiety disorder. It can occur at any age.

Causes

  • Family history
  • Brain chemistry plays a role in susceptibility of an individual to develop social phobia. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter. It regulates moods and emotions. People with social phobia are known to be extra-sensitive to serotonin.
  • Amygdala is the part of the brain which regulates response to fear. It is overactive in people with social phobia.
  • Criticism or humiliation by parents or friends in childhood increases the chances of developing social phobia.
  • Stress

Social phobia may have a significant impact on quality of life of individuals and may lead to

  • Low self confidence
  • Pessimistic approach to life‘s problems
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Alcohol or drug abuse

Treatment

Family and friends support rather than their criticism is required to help people with social phobia. Setting smaller goals for them to go outside their comfort zone and helping them to achieve them, appreciating and motivating them can help them build confidence and overcome their fears slowly.

A mental health professional can be consulted for coping with social phobia. Medications are given to control the anxiety and its associated symptoms. Cognitive psychotherapy is also given long with medicines. It teaches the person to control the negative thoughts when under stress. Sometimes exposure therapy is also given where the person is made to face the fear slowly and gradually. This will help in improving social skills and confidence.

Certain simple lifestyle changes can ease anxiety and control symptoms of social phobia.

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