What is Social Anxiety or Social Phobia?

*This blog is a continuation of our series on Anxiety disorders.

When discussing mental health, anxiety is one of the most highly recognized terms or disorders that the general public is aware of. What many do not realize is that anxiety is an umbrella term for a variety of anxiety based disorders including: phobia specific anxiety, PTSD or OCD, generalized anxiety, social anxiety and so on. Although there are many similarities amongst the different anxiety disorders, they are each unique and must be explored as disorders in their own right. Today, we will be taking a closer look at social anxiety disorder or social phobia.

Social Anxiety Disorder/Social Phobia

Social anxiety or social phobia is defined by Anxiety Canada as,“Social anxiety disorder is one of the most common anxiety disorders. People with social anxiety disorder tend to feel quite nervous or uncomfortable in social situations. They are very concerned that they will do something embarrassing or humiliating, or that others will think badly of them.”

Those who suffer with social anxiety tend to avoid social situations as they focus on how others are perceiving them, or if they are “performing” correctly. Those with social anxiety can experience both phycological symptoms (overanalyzing their actions, ruminating on how others perceive them) and physical symptoms (blushing, racing heart, dizziness…etc). Due to these symptoms, people with social anxiety may prefer to avoid situations they believe will trigger these feelings.

Suffer From Social Anxiety Disorder?

There are several factors attributed to social anxiety including a genetic link or an over-active Amygdala, but there are other potential triggers.

A history of teasing, bullying or abuse can be a cause, as well as having overprotective parents or caregivers. Some people don’t experience any of these events in their past, but still experience social phobia.

How to Treat Social Anxiety Disorder

As with other anxiety disorders, social phobia can be treated through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This form of treatment will help identify negative thought patterns and help to change them.

Another helpful treatment, alongside CBT is Exposure Therapy. This treatment modality is exactly what it sounds like, gradual exposure to specific phobias in an effort to limit avoidant behaviour.

Group therapy can also be a helpful option, as a way of developing a tolerance to social settings and learning techniques to interact with others in a social, yet safe environment.

Social Anxiety Disorder and Covid-19

As we begin to emerge from isolation in this post Covid-19 world, those who suffer from social phobia may be feeling anxiety related to going back to work, school or social events. It may also be the case that those who previously did not suffer from this specific anxiety may develop symptoms, simply from the lack of social interaction over the last 2 years.

As such, it is important to develop strategies to coop with discomfort. These strategies can be developed with the help of a trained counsellor.

Seeking help for social anxiety? Contact us today!

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