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Causes of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), Symptoms, Prevention, Treatment

Updated on November 15, 2016
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John uses Biochemistry and Physiology (PhD) skills to review health topics, disease prevention, home remedies for ailments & better health

Anxiety and nervousness is a normal part of everyday life. Some anxiety is a survival mechanism designed to generate concentration and alertness so that we perform at our best and meet your expectations. However, for a surprisingly large proportion of people, stress, fear and anxiety become magnified so that they freeze, become paralysed and feel unable to cope with the situation or all the pressure.

People suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) fear social occasions and events where they might be judged or embarrassed. Sufferers experience a variety of symptoms such as trembling, a pounding or racing heart, blushing or sweating.

Anxiety disorder is quite common and there are a number of different types such as obsessive compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, specific phobias, but this article focuses on social anxiety disorder in particular, which is the most common type of anxiety disorders.

SAD afffects people of all ages.
SAD afffects people of all ages. | Source
Anxiety can be debilitating
Anxiety can be debilitating | Source
Prevalence of Anxiety
Prevalence of Anxiety | Source

Types of social anxiety disorder?
People diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder can be classified as having:

  • A specific disorder applies when a specific situations or event cause social anxiety.
  • A generalized social anxiety disorder applies to a range of situations and typically involves a general persistent, recurring and chronic fear of being assessed by others as falling short or being inadequate in some way or being exposed to the risk being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions or short-comings. These fears can be triggered or thought to be about to occur, through the imagined, perceived or actual scrutiny by others.

Nearly 13 percent of the general population (one in 8) experience some symptoms of social anxiety disorder at least one in their lives. It is more common in females but males are less likely to seek treatment or relief. Most sufferers are aware of and recognize their fear of social phobias as being unreasonable or excessive. However research has shown that social phobias are very hard to overcome, even when people seek help and many people live their lives with social interaction disabilities which affects their careers and quality of life.

Key Facts about Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)

Under-diagnosed as a Problem - It is estimated that about 20 million Americans are afflicted with it each year with this condition each year. It is rated as a common psychiatric disorder, being the third most common after alcohol abuse and depression. It is significantly under-diagnosed because many suffers are unaware that they have SAD and attribute it to general shyness and self-consciousness. Until recently it wasn't recognised as an affliction by the medical community and the general population and has probably not been diagnosed as it should.

Symptoms depend on cultural influences - The symptoms and expression of SAD depends on cultural background. In some Asian cultures such as Korea or Japan, people with SAD are more likely to offend others rather than being embarrassed. The specific disorders are also very dependent on cultural background.

Many SAD sufferers have other Problems and are Unaware of the Disorder - Many of those with SAD also suffer from depression and other personal problems such as addictions. Many males don’t realize they have social phobias and that they should seek help. The young age of onset, usually during the late teens or early twenties may affect recognition of the affliction and the need to seek help. It may be misdiagnosed as a related to the 'general 'dark teenager' years that are experienced by many young people.

SAD is classified as a phobia in a similar way that some people are afraid of snakes or heights or snakes - It is a phobia or fear about being in social situations. Its treatment is similar to that for other phobias.

It is related to genetics and environmental factors - SAD arises through of a combination of both environmental (circumstances) and biological (genetic) factors. Some individuals who are prone to it through inherited features may not develop SAD symptoms if their environment and circumstances does to lead to the triggers required for it to develop. Similarly someone may experience social incidents that cause embarrassment and feelings of inadequacy but not develop SAD if their genetics and personality are not prone for its development.

SAD is more than just shyness - The difference between shyness and SAD is that while many shy people feel uneasy in confronting situations, they do not feel fear in anticipation of future events, they don' have the severe physical symptoms and don't tend to actively avoid situations that make them shy and uneasy. Most shy people cope, while SAD people can't cope. Many people with SAD symptoms are not necessarily shy. They can be at ease with people and social situations most of the time, but a particular situation or trigger may give them intense feelings of anxiety that is unrelated to shyness.

SAD tends to go untreated and substantially undiagnosed - Studies have shown that most patients endure one or more of the symptoms for 10 years before seeking treatment. Only about one quarter of people with SAD symptoms get treatment. Social phobia by its very nature may make sufferers very reluctant to seek treatment, and sufferers and medical practitioners may discount it as simply bouts of shyness or normal social unease, especially in teenagers.

SAD is highly treatable! - People who suffer by themselves with the symptoms of SAD for a long time, may think that nothing can help and that nothing will change. However most sufferers who do seek and get treatment so show substantial improvement. A combination of various medications, and psychotherapy, singly or together have been shown to alleviate many of the symptoms.

SAD is an expression of lack of self-confidence and can be magnified by being in the company of highly experienced people and unfamiliar situations and circumstances - SAD people become very self-conscious and take themselves very seriously - Sufferers tend to concentrate on every small problem they have in a social situation, and magnify them out of proportion to their actual affect on their interactions. One of more bad experiences tend to make things worse. Even blushing may trigger other symptoms as a sufferer imagines that all eyes are focused on them.

SAD can be Very Disruptive - Social phobia disrupts normal lives and interferes with careers and social relationships.

Many SAD people are aware of their problems but don't know how to fix them - Most people with social phobia are well aware that they have irrational and unjustified negative feelings are extreme and irrational. Yet the fear and dread still occurs and they may take all sort of evasive action to avoid it. Even when they manage to confront their fear, they may go through hell beforehand and feel very uncomfortable in dealing with it. Afterwards, their anxious feelings may persist, and they worry about how others may have judged them or their activities.

© janderson99-HubPages

© 2011 Dr. John Anderson


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  • Rachelle Williams profile image

    Rachelle Williams 5 years ago from Tempe, AZ

    This is an interesting read. However, when I think of "SAD" in psychological terms, I always think of Seasonal Affective Disorder. I did not know that it was also used for Social Anxiety Disorder, thanks for educating me.

    Voted up and Useful