What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social Anxiety Disorder or “Social Phobia” is when an individual feels emotional discomfort, anxiety, or fear about social situations. Individuals with social phobia will often feel that they are being judged or rejected by others. Physical sensations may accompany the phobia causing an increase in fear symptoms such as crying, blushing, sweating, or shaking. Social anxiety can create a fear of public situations like public speaking or cause an individual to avoid social events.
Social anxiety disorder is the third most common mental disorder, affecting upwards 5-12% of the general population at some point in life. Approximately 5% of children and adolescents suffer from social anxiety disorder. In general, females tend to be more affected by social anxiety than males, and this gender difference is usually more pronounced in adolescents and young adults. Although the majority of social anxiety disorders cases start in adolescence, these difficulties can start as early as preschool.
Individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder:
- Avoid social situations or outings
- See that that their social anxiety greatly interferes with their life
- Have accompanied feeling like stomach distress, shaking, or concentration challenges
- Fear that they will embarrass or humiliate themselves by acting in a way that could cause them to be judged
- May experience a panic attack whenever they are in uncomfortable social situations
- Thinking about oneself in highly negative, critical ways, or assuming that others are thinking extremely negative things
Whether social anxiety is in specific presentation moments or in more generalized social scenarios, Exposure Therapy is the most effective treatment approach. Exposures can include practicing with virtual humans, role plays, practicing with real people via technology mediums (e.g., Skype, Facetime) as well as practice in vivo, with real people to address a variety of commonly affected social situations, such as starting, joining, or maintaining conversations, interacting in groups such as at parties or other social gatherings, dating or talking to romantic interests, participating or presenting in meetings or classes, talking to people in positions of authority, and public speaking. Treatment will focus on helping you gain social confidence and skills that lead to success.