It's estimated that 9.1% of teens aged 13-18 experience social phobia, and according to the National Institute Of Mental Health, 7.1% of adults have it as well. You might be wondering what the symptoms of social phobia are or if you have social anxiety disorder. Below, we’ll talk about social phobia in-depth and go over some of the ways of treating a social anxiety disorder, including online therapy for teens.
What Is Social Phobia?
Social phobia is also known as social anxiety disorder. It is a mental health condition characterized by extreme or overwhelming anxiety that occurs in one or more social situations. The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines social anxiety as the “marked fear or anxiety about one or more social situations in which the individual is exposed to possible scrutiny by others.” Some of these situations may include social interactions, such as meeting unfamiliar people, being observed, eating in front of others, and performing or speaking in front of others.
This phobia is not just shyness or the occasional nervousness everyone experiences at times. Instead, social phobia can impede someone’s ability to engage in daily activities. This form of anxiety in teens is common. The average time of onset is one's teenage years; many people first experience symptoms during their childhood or teenage years. However, symptoms may begin at any time, and one can receive a diagnosis at any age or during any stage of life.
Symptoms Of Social Anxiety Disorder
Symptoms of social anxiety disorder or social phobia include the following:
- A sense of overwhelm, fear, extreme nervousness, or anxiety during social situations
- Intense fear and anxiety in anticipation of social events (anxiety prior to social events)
- Fear of embarrassment, humiliation, or judgment from others when or before socializing
- Self-consciousness and persistent negative thoughts
- Undeveloped social skills, such as misreading body language or not maintaining eye contact
- Concern about what other people thought of you after an interaction or event
- A tendency to analyze your actions after an interaction or event and to ruminate over potential flaws in what you said or did
- Avoidance of social events, interactions, and situations where you may be embarrassed, humiliated, or judged
- A tendency to cancel or say "no" to social events or interactions due to symptoms
- Trouble talking to new people or people you don't know well
- Physical symptoms, such as blushing, sweating, shaking, trembling, or experiencing gastrointestinal distress, muscle tension, and a rapid heartbeat
Those who live with social anxiety disorder may have an increased likelihood of meeting the criteria for other mental health conditions, including major depressive disorder (MDD), or other anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
How Does Social Phobia Impact Your Life?
- Attending work, school, or similar obligations
- Ordering food at a restaurant
- Answering the phone
- Interacting with employees at stores, shops, and similar locations
- Making new friends
- Joining new groups or trying new activities where others are present
- Eating in public or in front of others
- Attending social events or parties
There are a variety of causes of this anxiety disorder, and it can affect different people in different ways. Difficulty with the different types of complex interactions listed above may lead to trouble attending or performing at work or school, which may impact your education or employment or cause fatigue and stress in these contexts. Some people may experience loneliness due to isolation or trouble getting to know new people. Others may miss or put off important phone calls or have difficulty getting what they need at stores and shops.
How Do I Know If I Have Social Anxiety?
However, you may also want to get a physical exam from a medical doctor to ensure your physical symptoms are not linked to another health condition. If your physical exam indicates a medical condition, your doctor may prescribe medication (such as beta blockers) to help improve your physical health.
How To Ease Social Anxiety
- Practice mindfulness.
- Take deep breaths.
- Journal your thoughts.
- Push yourself to experience more social gatherings.
- Take care of your physical health.
- Discuss your thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend or family.
Other Ways To Find Help
Whether you're experiencing significant anxiety, depression, difficulty with personal relationships, or stress related to school or work, a counselor or therapist may be able to help. People with social anxiety disorder often find help by trying behavioral therapy or exposure therapy with a trained mental health professional or by finding support through a support group.
There are a number of different ways to find a therapist or counselor who meets your needs. You can search the web, browse a therapist directory, see what your health insurance plan covers, or sign up for a reputable online platform like BetterHelp (18+) or TeenCounseling (13-19). All of the providers on the BetterHelp and TeenCounseling platforms are licensed, and you can talk to a counselor completely online, which may be helpful if social anxiety makes it difficult to leave home. Studies show that online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy for anxiety. Also, online therapy also tends to be more affordable than traditional in-person services without insurance.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is Social Phobia The Same As Anxiety?
Social phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that is also known as social anxiety disorder. People with this disorder experience intense fear and anxiety symptoms when in social situations or during social interactions. So yes, social phobia can be thought of as the same as anxiety, because it is an anxiety disorder that is triggered by specific situations.
What Does Social Anxiety Look Like?
- Experiencing a persistent fear in social situations
- Blushing, sweating, or trembling
- Increased heart rate and high blood pressure
- Feeling sick to their stomach
- Experience their mind going blank
- Struggling to make eye contact
- Rigid body posture
- Being self-conscious when interacting with others
- Exhibiting poor social skills and extreme shyness
- Avoiding public places and social situations
At What Age Does Social Anxiety Begin?
Can Social Phobia Be Cured?
The good news is that social phobia is a treatable mental health condition. But unfortunately, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association Of America, only 5% of people with social anxiety disorders seek treatment. This could be due to their symptoms and fear response preventing them from talking to a health professional about their concerns or they may try to convince themselves that they don’t have a problem. However, social anxiety disorders are very real psychiatric disorders that may worsen if left untreated. Some people who do not seek treatment turn to unhealthy behaviors, such as substance abuse, to cope with their feelings.
So how is it treated? Research shows that talk therapy is the best treatment for social phobia. This disorder can improve significantly with various modalities of therapy, including those used in both group therapy and individual therapy settings. Modalities of therapy that help with social anxiety include but aren't limited to cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and exposure therapy. Many people also find treatment and help through support groups and other forms of behavioral therapy.
Is Shyness A Social Phobia?
Shyness is not the same as social phobia. Experts recognize that social phobia and social anxiety disorder are not synonymous with or the same as being shy. Someone with an anxiety disorder such as social anxiety disorder may be shy or consider themselves shy in addition to living with the condition, but with social anxiety disorder or social phobia, symptoms can be severe and may have serious impacts on a person's life. Therefore if you are experiencing just shyness or struggle with social skills, you don’t necessarily have social phobia.
If you're struggling with socializing, social relationships, or social anxiety in any way, therapy or counseling can be advantageous.
Should I Go To Therapy For Social Anxiety?
Therapy is a leading and highly recommended treatment for social anxiety. Research looking at cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for social anxiety shows that brief CBT is an effective treatment, with participants showing clinically significant improvement. Social anxiety can impact a person's life in serious ways, and it can be truly debilitating, but it doesn't have to stay that way. Getting help is imperative for those who are struggling, and it can be life-changing once you find the right care. Remember that if the first therapist you see isn't a good fit, you can switch or change providers.
What Is The Root Cause Of Social Anxiety?
A lot of people wonder what causes social anxiety. There are a number of factors that can contribute to the development of social anxiety, and there is no singular root cause that's true across the board. Factors that may increase the likelihood that someone will have social anxiety disorder include but aren't limited to:
- Family history or genetics. Those with a family history of social anxiety disorder are said to be 2-6 times more likely to live with it themselves.
- Temperament and personal history. It's said that those who are more timid might face a higher likelihood of social anxiety, and your personal mental health history may also play a role.
- Negative experiences. These may include but aren't limited to bullying, harassment, feeling othered, and having a specific feature or difference pointed out by peers.
Trauma and social isolation are other possible risk factors. If you are struggling with various concerns - for example, trauma and social anxiety - you can address both in therapy. Often, various stressors and things that impact your mental health affect each other, and they can all be addressed with the help of a licensed professional therapist or counselor. Therapy is a place where you can express your struggles and unique experiences as an individual in a non-judgemental setting. Struggling with mental health does not mean that you're broken, and anything you face that may have contributed to the development of social phobia is not your fault.
What Are Examples Of Social Phobias?
Is Social Phobia Normal?
How Many Types Of Social Phobias Are There?
What Is The Most Common Social Phobia?
How Do You Stop Social Phobia?
How Serious Is Social Phobia?
How Do I Make Friends With Social Phobia?
Is Social Phobia A Fear?
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