When someone is nervous is about giving a speech, or talking in front of others, the first thing someone usually says to you is, “oh you’ll be fine, just picture everyone in their underwear”. However, what about when it becomes more than just a simple fear of giving a presentation in class or at work? This is often calledSocial Anxiety Disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder

According to the DSM-IV-TR, Social Anxiety Disorder is characterized by…

  • A marked or persistent fear of social and/or performance when around unfamiliar people, or people who they fear may judge them. The person develops an overwhelming fear that they will do something to humiliate themselves in front of others.
  • Exposure to the feared situation mentioned above often provokes extreme levels of anxiety. This can sometimes lead to panic attacks.
  • The person is aware that their fear is excessive and unreasonable.
  • Feared social situations are avoided or endured with intense anxiety and distress.
  • The avoidance, anticipation, and/or distress associated with the feared social situation interferes with functioning at work, school, and or someone’s interpersonal relationships.

These symptoms can interfere with work when having to give a presentation . One may worry, is my boss going to give me a good review after this presentation? What if I do bad, would they fire me? What if I become nervous, and my hands and voice shakes, will my coworkers think I am incompetent. This fear also can arise when in new social situations, giving a speech a class, or trying to meet some new people.

Learn more about signs and symptoms HERE  and HERE.

Treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder

Treatment often consists of seeking therapy from a counselor/psychologist. A psychiatrist can also prescribe anti-anxiety medication for when you find yourself in these situations while you wait for the effects of your therapy to take place. However, within therapy, the first thing the therapist may address are the underlying negative thoughts that can lead to the anxiety you feel. This could be, “people will think I’m stupid,” “My voice will start shaking, and I’ll humiliate myself,” or “I won’t have anything to say, and I’ll seem boring.” These thoughts are often caused by cognitive distortions.

If you are someone who has panic attacks as a result of the anxiety, the therapist may use exposure to various panic attack triggers or symptoms. They may teach you various breathing techniques to decrease your body’s stress response. If you are interested in learning more about breathing and relaxation techniques to use when experiencing stress, check out this article on breathing techniques.

Prevalence & Other Information

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 12.1% of adults will experience Social Anxiety Disorder at some point in their lives. The average age of onset is often 13 years of age as the child begins puberty. The physical symptoms of stress, such as inability to sleep, loss of appetite, or upset stomach can lead someone to think they have developed a physical illness. As reported by Healthy Place,

According to “The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders,” a study commissioned by the ADAA and based on data gathered by the association and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one third of the $148 billion total mental health bill for the U.S.

In Sum…

Social Anxiety Disorder can cause impaired functioning in more than your high school speech class. It can last all the way into adulthood and beyond if never treated. Many people feel so embarrassed by their fear, that they are too embarassed to seek treatment, the person may feel they should be able to  handle it on your own. For some people, they can, but others may need some help from a counselor. If you suffer from these symptoms, don’t feel too embarrassed to seek help. Just remember, 5.3 million people at any given time are suffering from this disorder, you’re not alone!

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
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