Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) / social phobia and its symptoms
What is social anxiety disorder?
Also known as SAD, or social phobia, this disorder involves excessive self-consciousness and overwhelming anxiety in everyday situations. People with social phobia have a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions. Their fear may be so severe that it interferes with work or school, and other ordinary activities.
While many people recognize that their fear of being around people may be excessive or unreasonable, they are unable to overcome it. They often worry for days or weeks in advance of a dreaded situation.
There are three levels of social phobia:
Performance social anxiety disorder
Sufferers are only affected when performing in front of others e.g. severe anxiety about public speaking.
Avoidant personality disorder
Considered to be the most severe, this usually starts at an early age and is more common in males. This disorder means sufferers have problems functioing in social environments and as such have few friends and rarely marry. This level of disorder can be treated using similar methods to those used for...
Generalized social anxiety disorder
The most common social anxiety disorder. This effects the sufferer in many social environments, from work to parties and may mean the sufferer misses out on many life-affirming moments both big and small.
What are the symptoms?
Physical symptoms often accompany intense SAD and include blushing, excessive sweating, trembling, nausea, and difficulty talking. If you a sufferer, you may be painfully embarrassed by these symptoms and feel as though all eyes are focused on you. You may be afraid of being with people other than your family.
People with SAD are aware that their feelings are irrational. Even if they manage to confront what they fear, they usually feel very anxious beforehand and are intensely uncomfortable throughout. Afterward, the unpleasant feelings may linger, as they worry about how they may have been judged or what others may have thought or observed about them.
Who suffers from social phobia?
SAD affects about 5.3 million adult Americans; the UK statistics are unclear but likely to be of relative proportions. SAD occurs in women twice as often as in men, although a higher proportion of men seeks help for this disorder which usually begins in childhood or early adolescence, and there is some evidence that genetic factors are involved. It rarely develops after a person reaches 25 years old.
SAD often co-occurs with other anxiety disorders or depression. Substance abuse or dependence may develop in individuals who attempt to 'self-medicate' their phobia by drinking or using drugs.