Social Anxiety: The Intense Fear of Judgment?

There are thousands of people worldwide who suffer from social anxiety, also known as social phobia, yet there is no single, agreed upon cure for this mental illness. Sufferers can learn to recognize and take a certain amount of control over the symptoms. Some with social anxiety seek out cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication that regulates the brain chemistry. However, it may not be necessary to get medical treatment. It depends on the severity of the anxiety. But, before we come to the stage of acknowledging that we need help and seeking serious medical treatment, you may want to take a look at the symptoms of social phobia and examine how sever your, or someone else’s social anxiety appears to be. Below we will cover a number of these symptoms. It is important to remember that not all social anxiety sufferers suffer from all symptoms, they may experience two or three out of a number of different symptoms. Also, each person may experience social anxiety at different level from minor to having a sever panic attack.

We have probably all experienced shyness and insecurity at some point in our lives. The sweaty palms before giving a public speech, the red blotches down the neck when being introduced to a stranger for the first time. It is important to distinguish between shyness and social anxiety. A shy person may experience a degree of discomfort in the moment but may find ways to cope and has a big chance of out-growing the shyness. A socially anxious person will be nervous and anxious a long time before the actual event. Let us say he or she has to see the dentist or the hairdresser. Whereas a shy person might be nervous the final ten minutes before coming to the appointment, the socially anxious person will fret about it for weeks beforehand and may not show up at all due to intense fear and worry. Sever social anxiety – if left untreated – can be crippling to a person’s life and may cause a person to become unemployed, socially isolated and in the worst cases depressed and suicidal. Such extreme cases really need serious medical intervention. Fortunately, the vast majority of those who suffer from some sort of anxiety about social situations usually find they hate crowds, parties and avoid large gathering, but can live a relatively normal life.
social anxiety
What is this intense fear and worry all about? Within the socially anxious individual there is typically a fear of judgment. He or she will become terrified about being observed by other people. For example they may be afraid of eating in public because their hands might shake or they might spill their food or drink. They may have a fear of passing out in public or having to speak with strangers in an unforeseen situation. You might call it an excessive self-consciousness. Suffering from this anxiety is like living under a constant spotlight, always being on stage, always being noticed and thereby always risking ridicule and judgment from others. Someone who lives with this form of anxiety may begin to isolate themselves in order to avoid social situations, office parties, remaining by themselves during lunch hour. It can become so sever that a person may stay home from work, ending up on disability and thereby being pushed further into isolation. There might be a degree of comfort in being allowed to stay home in one´s comfort zone but on the other hand it also brings about an extreme form of isolation that only serves to make the anxiety worse if left untreated.

As the human body and mind work closely together, there are of course also physical symptoms of social anxiety which are basically the same as any other kind of anxiety. The sufferer may experience a rapid heartbeat, difficulty in breathing, a feeling of being strangulated, a dry mouth, dizziness and trembling. These are just some of the physical symptoms that have been noticed by anxiety sufferers. It is possible to relieve these symptoms by medication but remember that medication is not a cure for social anxiety. The degree one may suffer from this physical symptoms can vary in a huge degree from person to person. Sometimes one can attend social functions but feel these physical symptoms triggered by particular social interactions such as meeting a new woman or man, or having someone reject or insult them.

Little is known about the origin of social anxiety. Some believed that part of the illness is genetic and part is learned behavior. It is often seen that if grandparents or parents have suffered from this particular anxiety, later generations have a greater risk of suffering from it as well. On the other hand, if a young child or adolescent experiences rejection or intense bullying, he or she may withdraw socially and start feeling very aware of his or her own body, speech and behavior in public situations, thus slowly developing social phobia.

In the most sever cases, the aid of medication and a special kind of therapy known as cognitive-behavioral therapy, anxiety sufferers may learn to recognize the body’s early warning signs that an anxiety attack is under way and then act accordingly. In some cases learning how to challenge one’s thoughts and behavior patterns so that the outcome of a social situation may turn out positive, thereby learning that the worst fears are rarely realized. It is rare that social anxiety vanishes altogether but anxiety sufferers can benefit a great deal from treatment and/or learning how to neutralize the unfounded fears about social gatherings and social situations. Putting in the work with dealing with social anxiety is absolutely worth it. One can then discover that life holds wonderful social experiences and that half of life is about the joy of spending quality time with others.

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