Anxiety comes in many different forms, as well as different situations. Social Anxiety is just one of the ways the broader term ‘Ëœanxiety’ manifests itself. Social anxiety is different from anxiety due to stress, feelings of sudden fear, or having to speak in front of a bunch of people. These things can all cause anxiety and those suffering from Social Anxiety may suffer in these areas too, though this form of the disease can have many more triggers. It will also have many more effects.
According to the Social Anxiety Association this type of anxiety is the third largest psychological problem in the United States today, affecting 15 million Americans in any given year. (Thomas A Richards, 2011) Many people, including myself, suffer from social anxiety on a routine basis and some do not even realize it. This is because the anxiety itself makes the person feel as if they are the problem, not the disease.
The Department of Psychiatry at UPenn has a center for the treatment and study of anxiety, and they describe the symptoms of social anxiety as so:
· Intense, persistent fear of being watched or humiliated by others
· Overwhelming anxiety upon entering a feared social environment
· Understanding the fear to be unreasonable and excessive
· Physical anxiety symptoms: Blushing, nausea, sweating, trembling, difficulty speaking, etc. (Medicine, 2011)
In my experience with social anxiety, these symptoms are spot on. When a person is constantly worried that they are being watched by everyone in the room, it is an awful feeling. It is false, because usually it’s in a setting where people are enjoying each other’s company, or perhaps even a business meeting where the person doesn’t even have to speak. Still, this feeling is real and it’s horrible. It is, however, the anxiety, and not the truth.
Often times if I go into an environment with a lot of people, especially if any attention whatsoever will be drawn to me, which is usually the case at family functions, or friendly gatherings, my anxiety will hit hard. Before I even enter into the situation, I am worried, because the anxiety is messing with my mind. It puts all kinds of ‘Ëœwhat if’ scenarios in the mind.
People that suffer from social anxiety usually are able to understand that what they are feeling isn’t real, or isn’t true, but it’s often not enough to keep the fears from coming. This is a red flag for social anxiety sufferers. Knowing it’s irrational, but not being able to stop it is a definite sign of this disease and one that will bring the person down into depression if not treated.
Thankfully, there is help for sufferers of social anxiety. There are therapists that work specially in this field that can do wonders to help get this problem under control. There are also medicines that can be taken to help block the ‘Ëœfight or flight’ response, which is most commonly the culprit associated with social anxiety.
I have medicine that I take as well as a psychologist that I see that work to teach me to control these feelings of anxiety. This is an awful thing for anyone to go through and the worst part is that often we don’t realize what it is. We think of ourselves as failures. This will cause us to refuse help, if we are not careful. It’s hard to tell someone how social anxiety makes one feel, but it must be accepted that the social anxiety itself is what’s causing the feelings, and it’s perfectly normal to have these feelings with this disease. Without help, it will only make the problem worse and can truly become a very dangerous situation.
Medicine, P. (2011). Department of Psychiatry. Retrieved June 1, 2011, from Penn Medicine: http://www.med.upenn.edu/ctsa/social_anxiety_symptoms.html
Thomas A Richards, P. (2011). Retrieved June 1, 2011, from Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Association: http://www.socialphobia.org/whatis.html