The social anxiety disorder can make a person who makes a mistake fear, sometimes they are asked to make a fundamental decision or simply to answer a simple question that requires them to think of an answer that is in some way different from the their normal day to day conversation and communication. Being put in place to immediately answer a question can be quite terrifying for someone with social anxiety disorder, no matter how normal or simple the question may appear to someone who trusts and is able to communicate more easily.
The fear of embarrassment or being humiliated in front of others can be great. While a person can take a casual comment as a simple observation, to someone suffering from social anxiety, the same comment can feel totally mortifying … Fear can be aggravated by the lack of capacity and experience in dealing with social situations – If something it scares you, you will often try to avoid it where possible. While it may seem easier in the short term, the downside is that obviously you can never become good or confident in doing whatever it is.
When Does It Happen?
Anyone with social anxiety disorder can experience it in different ways. But here are some common situations that people tend to have trouble with:
- Talking to strangers
- Speaking in public
- Making eye contact
- Entering rooms
- Using public restrooms
- Going to parties
- Eating in front of other people
- Going to school or work
- Starting conversations
Causes of social anxiety disorder
Social anxiety disorder usually begins in the teenage years although it may start in childhood. While the exact cause of social anxiety disorder (SAD) is unknown, it is believed to result from a combination of both genetic and environmental factors.
Imbalances in brain chemistry have been linked to SAD. For example, an imbalance in the neurotransmitter serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates mood and emotions, may play a role in the development of social anxiety disorder.
Over-activity of a structure in the brain called the amygdala has also been linked to social anxiety. People with SAD may be predisposed to an exaggerated fear response and, in turn, increased anxiety.
Several environmental factors may also increase your risk of developing SAD. These include but are not limited to:
- Having an overly critical, controlling, or protective parent
- Being bullied or teased as a child
- Family conflict or sexual abuse
- A shy, timid, or withdrawn temperament as a child
Risk factors of social anxiety disorder
Several factors can increase the risk of developing social anxiety disorder, including:
- Family history. You’re more likely to develop social anxiety disorder if your biological parents or siblings have the condition.
- Negative experiences. Children who experience teasing, bullying, rejection, ridicule or humiliation may be more prone to social anxiety disorder. In addition, other negative events in life, such as family conflict, trauma or abuse, may be associated with social anxiety disorder.
- Temperament. Children who are shy, timid, withdrawn or restrained when facing new situations or people may be at greater risk.
- New social or work demands. Social anxiety disorder symptoms typically start in the teenage years, but meeting new people, giving a speech in public or making an important work presentation may trigger symptoms for the first time.
- Having an appearance or condition that draws attention. For example, facial disfigurement, stuttering or tremors due to Parkinson’s disease can increase feelings of self-consciousness and may trigger social anxiety disorder in some people.
Symptoms of social anxiety disorder
People with social anxiety disorder know that their fear is out of proportion to the actual situation, but they are still unable to control their anxiety. The anxiety may be specific to one type of social or performance situation, or it may occur in all situations.
Some of the situations that are common triggers include interacting with strangers, making eye contact, and initiating conversations. People with social anxiety disorder may experience cognitive, physical, and behavioral symptoms before, during, and after these social and performance situations.
Examples of cognitive symptoms:
- Fearing situations where you don’t know other people
- Worrying that you will be judged by others
- Fear of becoming embarrassed or being humiliated
- Thinking that others will notice your anxiety
- Dreading upcoming events weeks in advance
Examples of physical symptoms:
- Profuse sweating
- Trembling hands
- Muscle tension
- Racing heart
Examples of behavioral symptoms:
- Avoiding social/performance activities
- Leaving/escaping situations
- Using safety behaviors