Is social anxiety killing you? 

This blog post will answer the question, “Is social anxiety killing you? what is social anxiety disorder? What are the symptoms of social anxiety? What are the causes of social anxiety? and ways to manage or treat social anxiety? 

Is social anxiety killing you? 

Even though the feelings associated with anxiety seem like you are choking or dying, the truth is anxiety in its self can not be fatal.

Experiencing anxiety can be one of the scariest things. It can range from a sudden increase in fear or to increased heart rate to shortness of breath that mimics a heart attack. 

These extreme feelings and reactions associated with anxiety are what make an individual feel that they are dying. However, it is very important for one to understand that these feelings and reactions are temporary and shall fade away within 10min.

What is social anxiety disorder?

Social anxiety disorder is a member of the group of anxiety disorder that causes extreme fear in certain social environments, that is fear and other symptoms of social anxiety may not occur in all social situations. 

Nevertheless, in extreme cases, an individual may experience fear and other symptoms in all social settings.

Individuals experiencing social anxiety feel uncomfortable in social situations to an extent that it hampers their daily functioning. It’s also sometimes referred to as a social phobia.

Individuals with social anxiety disorder consider public spaces as potential spaces of humiliation and embarrassment. Social anxiety affects how a person interacts with the world around them.

They tend to avoid socialization, using public transport, and start isolating themselves to get rid of the uncomfortable feelings that follow in social situations.

Social anxiety can be differentiated from shyness. In that shyness does not affect an individual’s daily life and functioning, moreover shyness is short-lived.

On the other hand, social anxiety is persistent and negatively impacts various aspects of an individual’s life like their ability to work productively or even develop or maintain close bonds with people outside their family.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), approximately 15 million American adults experience social anxiety disorder. The onset of which can be seen as early as 13 years of age.

What are the symptoms of social anxiety disorder?

The symptoms of social anxiety disorder can be both physical and psychological. These symptoms can vary from sudden rise in fear to heart attack-like reactions in the body giving a false impression that a person might be dying.

The most significant physical symptoms that individual experiences during a social anxiety attack are:

  •     Nausea
  •    Excessive sweating
  •   Shaking or trembling
  •  Lightheadedness or feeling dizzy
  • Increased heart rate

The psychological symptoms that individual experiences during a social anxiety attack are:

  •    Excessive and intensive worry about the social situation.
  •   Worrying days or even weeks ahead of an important social event that they might have to attend.
  • Try to camouflage themselves in the background or have the need to avoid the social situation as a whole.
  • Anxious about being embarrassed in the social gathering
  •  The need for intoxication to face a social situation.
  • The constant worry of being observed by other people.
  • To avoid social contact an individual might also miss out on school or work.

In addition to this individuals with social anxiety may avoid social interactions such as asking another person a question when in doubt, potential job interviews, shopping malls, using public services like transport or washrooms, carrying out activities in public such as speaking or even eating in that matter.

What causes social anxiety disorder?

Even though the exact cause of the social phobia or social anxiety disorder is unknown it is safe to say that social phobia or social anxiety disorder is not caused due to any sole factor.

Search indicates that social anxiety disorder is manifested as a result of the interaction between environmental factors and the genetic factors of an individual.

Some environmental factors that might contribute to the emergence of social anxiety disorder are:

  • History of sexual abuse
  • Family conflicts or strained relationships
  • Experience of being picked on or bullied leading to a considerable amount of embarrassment or humiliation in similar social settings.

On the other hand, some genetic factors that may contribute to the emergence of social anxiety disorder in an individual are:

·      An imbalance in a chemical called serotonin may contribute to social anxiety. This chemical is known to help regulate mood.

·      An overactive amygdala, a structure in the brain that is responsible for controlling fear responses and feelings or thoughts of anxiety.

·      Anxiety disorders can also have a family history.

Apart from the known environmental and genetic factors some researchers also believe that social anxiety might develop as a result of learning the behavior by observing immediate contacts or social circles such as parents or other family members and friends.

How to manage social anxiety disorder?

Like other physical conditions, even social anxiety disorder has different approaches for its management and treatment. Along with the approach to the treatment itself, the outcome of the treatment may also differ from person to person.

Some people might only need a single type of treatment while others might require a combination of approaches.

Some of the ways to manage or treat social anxiety disorders are:

Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps an individual to control their anxiety by using strategies like relaxation and breathing. It works on the principles of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy is a kind of therapy in which an individual is exposed to a particular situation that they usually fear in a graded manner that it usually starts with exposing the individual to a situation that is least triggering and going up the ladder as in when the individual gets comfortable with each situation introduced or exposed to them with each session to make individual comfortable with a real-life situation that they might face.

Group therapy

As the name suggests group therapy usually involves two or more individuals who are experiencing similar symptoms and problems.

It is based on the principle that when an individual interacts with other people who are suffering from the same condition or fears they might not feel left alone or isolated.

This kind of therapy also helps in developing and maintaining social skills or techniques to interact with people in other social settings.

Medication

Like most other conditions and problems anxiety can also be treated with the help of medication that is prescribed by a health professional.

There are different types of anxiety medications each with its own set of benefits and side effects. Medication alone cannot be helpful to eliminate anxiety however it helps in alleviating some symptoms.

Lifestyle

Apart from therapy and medication what works best to manage social anxiety is certain lifestyle changes. These may include:

  • Regular exercises
  • Having a balanced diet,
  • Getting an adequate amount of sleep,
  • Indulging in relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation, consciously reducing stress,
  •  Socializing and talking to people about their anxiety,
  • Journal writing to express and understand one’s feelings and
  • Avoiding alcohol or drugs.

Conclusion

According to the ADAA, about 36% of people with social anxiety don’t speak to a healthcare provider until they have had symptoms for at least 10 years.

People with social anxiety disorder may depend on drugs or alcohol to cope with the anxiety triggered by the social situations, however, these can be looked at as temporary solutions.

The outlook for social anxiety is good with a combination of therapy and medication and some changes in the lifestyle. Even though It might take months of therapy and medication to feel better and confident in social situations it does not have to necessarily control your life.

An individual can keep their fears under control by identifying the triggers that make them feel out of control, practicing relaxation, and taking medications.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Why do I have social anxiety? 

 

Anxiety and other related conditions like social anxiety can be due to negative past experiences like abuse or bullying or even overcontrolling parents can be a part of an individual’s personality where they are predisposed to a shy nature and later become anxious adults. 

How do I not let social anxiety ruin my life?

Some strategies that individuals can try to maintain their lives while suffering from social anxiety are:

  • Do not hesitate in writing for us to help
  • One must become their own advocates
  • Set achievable goals
  • Focus on one’s health and prioritize it
  • Keeping a journal could help regulate one’s feelings and reflect on them overtime

What happens if social anxiety is left untreated

Be it physical or mental conditions when left untreated might lead to irreversible and extreme damage to an individual. Similarly in the case of social anxiety negligence of which might lead to depression, isolation, or other anxiety disorders.

Can social anxiety be fatal?

Although social anxiety does not have any direct relationship with an individual’s life span or mortality and increased level of stress, many studies indicate that high levels of stress may contribute to a higher risk of natural and unnatural causes of death.

Does social anxiety get worse with age?

It is a common notion that anxiety or shyness decreases with age. It is noticed that the occurrence of anxiety may be slightly lower in older adults, many aslo still get a diagnosis of anxiety in later stages of life.

Citations

·        https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/social-phobia#symptoms

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