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Social Anxiety Disorder

Updated on September 12, 2014

Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia can impact your entire life. This page is dedicated to the topic of Social Anxiety Disorders. I have included a working definition of the term Social Anxiety Disorder, types of the disorder, classic symptoms and treatment options. I have also included a list of free online resources for Social Anxiety Disorder as well as a list of good reference books.

Through this page we will study the nature/nurture debate, learn about community, goal setting and more.

Scroll down to view the table of contents for full details.

SAD Stats

According to the book, "Dying of Embarasment: Help for Social Anxiety & Phobia" Social Anxiety Disorder affects 2-3% of the population in the United States of America, making it the second largest anxiety disorder.

Social Anxiety Disorder Reference Books

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social Anxiety Disorder definition

Social Anxiety Disorder is the intense fear of social situations. Everyone is nervous about social interactions from time to time, but the social anxiety disorder sufferer will not just be nervous in social situations they will experience high levels of anxiety that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to interact in a social setting. Most of the social phobics time will be spent focussing on how uncomfotable they feel.

I remember reading one analogy a few years ago that stuck with me. Social anxiety disorder is like you are wearing a gossamer dress. You feel almost naked and that people are looking at you, and judging what they see. You feel paralyzed with fear that they are judging you. In the midst of the anxiety you feel like all your flaws are exposed for the world to see. They can see that you are less than anyone who you come in contact with.

Social Anxiety Disorder Poll - Secret Ballets

What is your relationship with Social Anxiety Disorder?

See results

Is Social Anxiety Contagious?

First let's put the record straight. Social Anxiety Disorder is not contagious.

There are two schools of thought on what causes social anxiety disorder. Like most other mental disorders the debate come down to nature or nurture.

Nature suggest that the building blocks for the disorder are passed down by your parents; though, having the gene doesn't mean that you will necessarily develop the disorder.

Nurture suggests that the disorder develops because of learned behavior. You learn from the people around you. If your role model was anxious in social situations or avoided them all together you can come to fear them yourself.

I'm a proponet for a combination of the two factors. I think they both play apart in whether a person develops social anxiety disorder. What do you think?

Types of Social Anxiety Disorders - Which type do you have?

  1. Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder

    The generalized social anxiety sufferer has uneasy feelings of social situations in general Any social situation gives this person pause and anxiety. Because all social situations are equally feared Generalized Social Anxiety Disorded sufferers are more likely to have poor social skills.

  2. Specific Social Anxiety Disorder

    The specific social anixety sufferer will have a fear of a specific social situation. They could have a fear of writing in front of people, eating in front of people or public speaking (or they can fear any number of other social situations.)

Is the cause of social anxiety more nature or nurture?

Nature - it's all about our genetic code.

Nature - it's all about our genetic code.

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    • Polonca 4 years ago

      I'm not sure. Yes it's true-monkey see monkey do. People are social creatures and we respond to the others feelings. But fear is connected to the our primary nature.

      So I thing that both-nature and nurture play a big part in Social Anxiety Disorder because inherited genetic traits from parents and other relatives can influence how the brain senses and regulates anxiety, shyness...

      Not everyone with a shy temperament develops social phobia. It's the same with genes.

      A person's naturally shy temperament can be influenced by what he or she learns from role models. If parents or others react by overprotecting a child who is shy, the child won't have a chance to get used to new situations and new people.

      Shy parents might also unintentionally set an example by avoiding certain social interactions. A shy child who watches this learns that socializing is uncomfortable, distressing, and something to avoid.

      If people born with a cautious nature have stressful experiences, it can make them even more cautious and shy.

      People who constantly receive critical or disapproving reactions may grow to expect that others will judge them negatively. Being teased or bullied will make people who are already shy likely to retreat into their shells even more. It's different from person to person. but if I had to choose I would choose....hm...nature.

    • Anthony Godinho 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I'm no expert on social anxiety, however, I tend to agree with you that it is probably a combination of the two.

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      I am going to vote for nature, because mine was caused by severe anxiety and depression and I never saw my parents or anyone else this way. Clinical depression has been in for my family for generations, and I got to the point the anxiety worrying about having to go out, stopped me going out and doing things. I lost a lot of so called friends because of it, and it's not easy to live with. I had therapy for my anxiety years ago and now I am fine, but I still do not like malls or movie theatres where there are a lot of people. I do socialize in smaller groups now :)

    Nurture - monkey see monkey do

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      • srsddn lm 4 years ago

        I am of the firm belief that social anxiety is linked with nurture, environmental factor play the greatest role in it.

      • MasterPsycho 6 years ago from Earth

        Like you said monkey see monkey do

      • Philippians468 6 years ago

        i'll cast my vote in the nurture side of things, our environment plays quite a role in shaping our world! cheers

      • Titia Geertman 6 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

        Living with a hubby for over 40 years, who has social anxiety which started in his teens, I'd say it's nurture, at least it is with him. Something happened in school when he was at a very vulnarable age and it developped througout the years. Only after having therapy we learned his behaviour had a name. It's not gone completely, but he has learned to deal with is and is still learning.

      Social Anxiety Disorder Symptoms - Do you have these symptoms?

      If you think you might have social anxiety disorder you can fill out a yes and no questionaire and print it out to take to your physician. To fill out the form click Social Anxiety Disorder form .

      You can classify social anxiety disorder symptoms into 3 different categories.

      3 Types of Symptoms

      1. Behavioral Symptoms

        These are the symptoms of how a person deals with social stimulation. Do they tend to avoid social situations? Self medicate through drugs or booze?

      2. Cognitive Symptoms

        These symptoms come in the form of thoughts. When you are feeling anxious in a social situation do you say these types of things to yourself? I'm blowing it or I will never fit in? If you do, you may be suffering from social anxiety disorder.

      3. Bodily Symptoms

        How does your body respond to social stimulation? The following are examples of social anxiety disorder bodily symptoms. Rapid heart rate, chest pain and blushing. There are many others.

      Social Anxiety Disorder is a treatable condition. You are not alone.

      Social Anxiety Disorder Treatments - What are my treatment options?

      • See a psychologist or psychiatrist to help you diagnosis your disorder.
      • Congnitive Behavior Therapy (CBT): This is a group of social anxiety disorder sufferers who help you change your old thought process and teach you new behaviors to replace the non-healthy behaviors. This group is usually run by a moderator or two.
      • Exposure Therapy: Your CBT group might seem like an exercise in Exposure Therapy as most social phobics would rather avoid a group setting but it is a necessary step if you are going to get better. In CBT you set small goals that you think you will be able to complete with the least amount of anxiety to you. You expose yourself to a certain situation in order to limit the anxiety's hold on you. As you get better at these smaller steps you slowily move towards bigger exposure exercises.
      • Medication: It is thought that people with social anxiety disorder do not get enough seratine, so medication may be introduced to deal with the shortage. Most often SSRI will be perscribed to help elevate seratine levels.

      Social Anxiety Skill Set

      Learning how to exist in the world.

      If you have suffered from Social Anxiety for a long time you will probably developed some habits that communicate to the world that you are afraid of it. For example, Do you make eye contact?

      Areas to Work On

      If you avoid eye contact, and feel like you would rather disappear than connect with someone who you feel will only judge you, you are not alone. Making eye contact is a signal that you are confident and interested in making a connection with someone . It is an important skill you may have to learn, I know it can be daunting or you may feel foolish because you have to learn a skill that comes easily to some, but look at it this way, you know how to do some things that others need to work at. Everyone is different and everyone develops habits that work for them on some level. The secret is to continue to grow and change, Just because something is difficult or uncomfortable does not mean that it is not worth the journey.

      Other areas you may have to work on include: Self esteem issues, conversation basics, assertiveness training and reevaluating your thought processes. These are huge areas to work on but you can do it with the right motivation. Remember every thing can be broken down into smaller baby steps. Learning new things and developing new skills takes time. Just keep learning and growing and you will find success at your own pace.

      Social Anxiety Disorder Community

      Find people with Social Anxiety Disorders

      Do you feel isolated, alone and not ready to talk about the possibility you might have social anxiety disorder with someone in person? Want to talk to social anxiety sufferers or hear their stories?

      You can check out the Social Anxiety Disorder Forums. Here are two of the available forums: Social Anxiety Support and Social Phobic World. It's a great place to ask questions from the safety of your computer or find information directly from someone who lives with the disorder.

      Remember your doctor is the only one who can properly diagnose you and is someone you will need to contact to begin your treatment.

      Social Anxiety Action Plan

      You won't move if you do not take the first step

      If you are like me, you are a good student, meaning you can understand theorizes and know what you need to do to get better, but and this is a big but, you struggle against the practicum ie putting your new skills into action, Whether it is because of fear or something else you need to figure out how you can take a step forward or change will be extremely difficult.

      Setting Goals

      In CBT group sessions you will get to decide what you want to accomplish or what you want in your life if social anxiety was not present. This becomes your long term goal. This is where you want to be in a couple of years. If you are thinking that this is an exercise in fantastical thinking, meaning it's great to have dreams but there is no way I'm goint to accomplish this, you are not the only one.

      This is where your goals gets broken down into smaller pieces. You set a medium goal you want to accomplish in six months to a year that will help you get to your dream life. Everything still seem too far off?

      Well this is where we stop and break our goals into even smaller pieces. These are things that cause you the lowest amount of anxiety that you can do to help you get to that medium sized goal. These are tiny goals that will help give you success and build confidence as you try harder things.

      Here is an example of setting long, medium and short term goals.

      Scenario: You see an ad for a 10km run, You think I would love to do that. You may simply dismiss the idea and think it's impossible to undertake much like you are now or you can attempt to make your dream come true. This is where goals become your friends.

      Long Term: Run that 10 km race.

      Great you've set the goal. Just one problem; Open ended goals do not work well. Your goal needs to be realistic and measurable. That means the goal needs to be exact and specific; What do you specifically want to accomplish? Do you want to just finish the race or complete it in a certain amount of time? Great you have answered those question and now all that is left is putting a time frame in place. When do you want to complete this goal ?

      So our long term goal looks more like this:

      Long Term Goal. In two years I want to be able to finish a 10km run.

      Next lets break it down into a medium sized goal but remember to be specific.

      Medium Term Goal: In one year I will be ready to compete in a 5km run in my local area.

      Onto my short term goals. These will be smaller things I can do this week to help me get to my goal.

      Smaller Goals: By this week, March 17, 2011:

      I will sign up for a gym membership.

      I will begin walking around my neighbourhood for 15 minutes at a time 3 times this week. Set the 3 days you will do this.

      I will purchase my first pair of running shoes. I will research running tips on Wednesday.

      Make sure everything is specific and measureable, and remember if you set your goals to high you can always go back and revise them.

      Did you learn anything about Social Anxiety Disorder? Do you have any comments on the topic of Social Anxiety Disorder? Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences on the subject.

      Social Anxiety Disorder Guestbook - Sign the Guestbook

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        • Titia profile image

          Titia Geertman 6 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

          Great lens and very informative. People often don't know anything about social anxiety disorder as we have noticed. Even close relatives and friends couldn't understand why my hubby didn't came to their birthdays because he would have to sit in a room full of grownups. I couldn't make it clear to them that it was nothing personal. After having therapy for about 10 years, he's improved very well.

        • carsten reisinger profile image

          carsten reisinger 6 years ago

          Nice lens. The information is very educational and nicely compiled.

        • Pnorway profile image

          Pnorway 6 years ago

          love all of your lens.

        • AnnsHomeDecor profile image

          AnnsHomeDecor 6 years ago

          Very informative lens. The subject of Social Anxiety Disorder needs more exposure.

        • nichevalue profile image

          nichevalue 6 years ago

          Great lens! Lots of good information on a potentially crippling disorder that very few people even know about.

          ***YOU'VE BEEN INKED!***

          https://hubpages.com/community/got-ink-2

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          lizziehumphreys1 6 years ago

          really interesting lens! :)

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          MasterPsycho 6 years ago from Earth

          Yeah i feel sometimes uncomfortable when alot of people surround me but anxiety symptoms...no......unfortunately more and more people develop that kind of disorder...and especially teenager who never leave their house because their playing video games

        • thesuccess2 profile image

          thesuccess2 6 years ago

          Valuable, useful lens well done

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          ChaunyWrites 6 years ago

          Wow, this was very informative, I didn't know that people suffered from this. Thank you for sharing.

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          GrinningFool 5 years ago

          Informative lens. I have always thought I have had social anxiety. Awkward in most new social situations!

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          Rose Jones 5 years ago

          This is a wonderful lens on a psychological/psychiatrist problem that affects a lot of people, and because of the nature it does not get the help it deserves. Thanks for bringing this out - the more information we get the better.

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          AnxietySocialNet 5 years ago

          hey amazing lens! will you to have you sharing your experience on my site, we are an anxiety social network http://www.squidoo.com/anxiety-social-net jump to our lens and tell us what you think! thanks!

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          anonymous 5 years ago

          I never get a full diagnosis,but I have most of the symptoms:( I'm a loner at high-school,very quiet and too nervous to talk to anyone& can 'sense' when somebody is talking behind me and get depressed over it..The only thing that make my day(at school) is,teacher compliment my essays or poem:] But,at most,I feel like ALIEN-_-

        • srsddn lm profile image

          srsddn lm 4 years ago

          A great lens with lots of information about social anxiety.

        • Polonca profile image

          Polonca 4 years ago

          A good choice. I think it is important that we expand our information on various psychological problems that can also help people in need and of course raise awareness of other people. :)

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          cohen63 3 years ago

          Social anxiety can be cured. one of my friends was really afraid of people but now he is free from any sort of anxiety and social phobia. He got help from socialanxietyexperts. com

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