Social anxiety disorder, formerly known as social phobia, is an anxiety disorder characterized by extreme self-consciousness and overwhelming anxiety in everyday social situations.
People who suffer from social anxiety disorder have a continuous, severe, and chronic fear of being observed and judged by others, as well as being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions.
Their anxiety may be so intense that it interferes with their ability to work, attend school, or engage in other activities.
Despite the fact that many persons with social anxiety disorder know that their fear of being among people is excessive or illogical, they are unable to overcome it. They frequently worry for days or weeks before a feared situation. Furthermore, they frequently suffer from low self-esteem and melancholy.
Social anxiety disorder might be restricted to a single scenario, such as a fear of public speaking, or a person can suffer symptoms whenever they are in the presence of other people. Social phobia can have serious repercussions if left untreated. It may, for example, prevent people from attending to work or school, or from meeting new friends.
Physical symptoms associated with social anxiety disorder include blushing, sweating, shaking, nausea, and difficulty speaking. Because these physical signs heighten the dread of rejection, they can become an additional source of anxiety, producing a vicious cycle: The more persons with social anxiety disorder worry about having these symptoms, the more likely they are to develop them.
Only if the avoidance, fear, or anxious anticipation of a social or performance scenario interferes with daily routine, occupational functioning, and social life, or if there is noticeable discomfort as a result of the anxiety, is a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder made.
The following criteria are provided by the DSM-5 for diagnosing social anxiety disorder:
- The individual is afraid of one or more social or performance circumstances in which he or she may be scrutinized by others.
- Meeting new people, being observed eating or drinking, or giving a speech or performance are all examples.
- The individual is afraid of causing embarrassment or being poorly assessed.
- Almost usually, social settings create intense anxiety.
- The dreaded scenario is avoided or endured with trepidation and distress.
- The worry or anxiety outweighs the actual threat offered by the social environment.
- The worry or anxiety is long-lasting and can endure for six months or more.
- Avoidance, nervous anticipation, or anxiety severely interferes with a person’s social, intellectual, or occupational functioning.
The following are some of the physical signs of social anxiety disorder:
- Blushing, sweating, trembling, a racing heart, or the sensation of your “mind going blank”
- Nausea or stomach upset
- Having a stiff body posture, making poor eye contact, or speaking too quietly
Furthermore, the diagnosis can clarify whether the anxiety or fear is exclusively present when the person speaks or performs in public.
While research into the reasons of social anxiety disorder is ongoing, several studies point to a small area in the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is thought to be a major location in the brain that regulates fear reactions.
Social anxiety disorder is a heritable condition. Indeed, first-degree relatives are two to six times more likely to have social anxiety disorder.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)-funded study also discovered the location of a gene in mice that impacts learned fearfulness. Scientists are investigating the possibility that increased sensitivity to disapproval is physiological or hormonal in nature.
Other academics are looking into the impact of the environment on the development of social phobia.
Adversity and mistreatment in childhood are risk factors for social anxiety disorder.
Social anxiety disorder frequently runs in families and is typically associated with depression or other anxiety disorders such as panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some people with social anxiety disorder use alcohol or other substances to self-medicate, which can lead to addiction.
Within a 12-month period, it is estimated that approximately 7% of the US population suffers from social anxiety disorder. Women are about twice as likely as males to suffer from social anxiety disorder, despite men seek treatment at a higher rate. The disorder usually appears in childhood or early adolescence and seldom appears after the age of 25.
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