Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) results in the extreme fear of being scrutinised and judged by others in social or performance situations and is the most crippling anxiety disorder. SAD can wreak havoc on the lives of those who suffer from it. This disorder is not simply shyness that has been inappropriately medicalised.
Symptoms may be so extreme that they disrupt daily life. People with SAD, also called social phobia, may have few or no social or romantic relationships, making them feel powerless, alone, or even ashamed.
- About 2 million adults have social anxiety disorder
- Typical age of onset: 13 years old
- 36 percent of people with social anxiety disorder report symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help
Although they recognise that the fear is excessive and unreasonable, people with SAD often feel powerless against their anxiety. They are terrified they will humiliate or embarrass themselves.
The anxiety can interfere significantly with daily routines, occupational performance, or social life, making it difficult to complete school, interview and get a job, and have friendships and romantic relationships.
Social anxiety disorder usually begins in childhood or adolescence, and children are prone to clinging behaviour, tantrums, and even mutism.
Individuals who suffer with SAD often have a number of cognitive distortions.
Cognitive distortions are essentially a negative thinking bias. Particularly relevant to the SAD suffer is a way of thinking that is excessively self-focused. Rather than focus on how other people look in the room, you are focused on how they look at you, essentially exaggerating the attention paid to you.
Why are you so worried how other people will see you? Why would you have to be the one worried about being judged? What gives them the right to feel superior? Another issue at the heart of SAD, among other anxiety disorders, is that of feeling inferior to other people you run into. Think about that for a second; it’s quite likely the other people are worried about the same thing, and are too busy being self-conscious themselves to even notice what you are concerned about.
Everyone can relate to feeling anxious before giving a presentation or asking someone out on a date, but those with social anxiety disorder experience an intense fear of being scrutinised and negatively evaluated by others in social or performance situations.
Like other anxiety disorders, social anxiety disorder can be treated.
Most people find significant improvement with professional care. Treatment success varies among people. Some may respond to treatment after a few months, while other people may need more than a year.
Treatment can be complicated if a person has more than one anxiety disorder or suffers from depression or substance abuse, which is why it must be tailored to the individual.
Although treatment is individualised, several standard approaches have proved effective. Therapists will use one or a combination of these therapies.
Anxiety Free: Unravel Your Fears Before They Unravel You, Second Edition.
Triumph Over Shyness: Conquering Social Anxiety Disorder, Second Edition
Both books are full of practical tips, helpful techniques, and more to help manage anxious thoughts and physical symptoms of social anxiety disorder.