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Social Anxiety Disorder
"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."
What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social Anxiety Disorder is characterized by an intense and overwhelming fear of circumstances where an individual perceives their performance, actions or behavior will be judged and lead to intense embarrassment or humiliation. The experience of Social Anxiety Disorder can be related to a specific environment, task or performance. It can also be generalized and apply to all areas of an individual's work, social, educational, or personal life.
Social Anxiety Disorder can interfere with effective functioning at work and an individual's social life. The experience of extraordinary levels of fear and anxiety can lead an individual to avoid situations that would trigger their experience. For example, it is normal to experience anxiety about a new job. We all encounter such feelings; however, in most cases, we accept the new job and feel capable of managing our anxiety. An individual with Social Anxiety Disorder may not pursue new job opportunities even though they are qualified for them because of the fear and anxiety associated with being judged or embarrassed in performance-based situations. Social Anxiety Disorder can erode self-confidence and often has an impact on relationships.
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), approximately 15 million people in our country have Social Anxiety Disorder. The organization further estimates that 36 percent of people with Social Anxiety Disorder experience symptoms for ten or more years before seeking treatment from a professional. The disorder typically originates in childhood or early adolescence.
Social Anxiety Disorder involves the experience of fear and anxiety in social situations that feels beyond the individual's ability to manage or control their symptoms. While most individuals who suffer from this disorder are aware their fear or anxiety is irrational, they experience a sense of powerlessness over its occurrence. Symptoms may include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) are extremely helpful modalities in treating Social Anxiety Disorder. In CBT, we teach new coping skills and different ways of thinking about an experience, resulting in individuals learning to feel more open to and comfortable in approaching social environments. With ERP, we help the individual confront their fears by exposing the person to the feared situations on a gradual basis and teach new behavioral responses to these experiences. CBT and ERP may or may not be accompanied by medications, depending on the individual's needs and circumstances. Other common therapeutic endeavors include stress management skills and techniques, therapy groups, and other supportive modes of treatment.
We have provided a series of materials below that you may find helpful in seeking general information. For specific information about your situation, please seek the assistance of a licensed professional therapist who specializes in Social Anxiety Disorders.
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