What is Social Anxiety?
Social Anxiety Disorder, also referred to as Social Phobia, is characterized by a fear of being judged or negatively evaluated by others. Individuals with social anxiety experience discomfort at the anticipation of situations involving social interactions, performance, or when they perceive there may be a risk of embarrassing themselves or being scrutinized by others. When someone experiences social anxiety, they often avoid situations in which they may experience anxiety and may come to fear displaying signs of anxiety within these situations. Other individuals with social anxiety endure the situation but engage in various other behaviours to alleviate their anxiety such as avoiding eye contact, always taking a companion, or adjusting their speech.
Social anxiety can be specific to a particular situation, such as public speaking, or it may occur across various social situations.
- Do you experience overwhelming anxiety prior to or within social situations?
- Do you avoid situations involving socializing or performance?
- Do you experience physical symptoms such as an increased heart rate, feeling hot, blushing or shaking when you are confronted with a social situation such as introducing yourself to others?
- Does anxiety about social or performance situations negatively impact on your work, studies or relationships?
How Common is Social Anxiety?
Studies have estimated that social anxiety is the third most common psychological disorder in the United States, after depression and alcohol difficulties. In addition, research indicates that approximately 13% of the general population will experience social anxiety during their lifetime.
What Treatments are Recommended for Social Anxiety?
As with many other anxiety disorders, the psychological treatment of choice for social anxiety disorder is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT for social anxiety involves working with your psychologist to identify any unhelpful thinking patterns, such as negative predictions and mind reading, and also identifying any unhelpful behaviours which may maintain your social anxiety – we refer to these behaviours as ‘safety behaviours’. Once these thought patterns and behaviours have been identified, you and your psychologist will work together to challenge or reframe these thoughts, and also reduce any safety behaviours. Exposure is an important element of social anxiety treatment, but as with any aspect of psychological treatment this will be at your pace. Research has also indicated that medications can be effective.
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