Did you know that 15 million adults are affected by social anxiety disorder (SAD)? Not only that but one out of seven children across the nation aged between two to eight years happen to have a mental, developmental or behavioral disorder that can include SAD.
SAD is a common anxiety disorder that causes fear or anxiety in social situations and can complicate everyday activities. Without any intervention, SAD can last for many years. Here is a brief guide to help you understand SAD.
Causes of Social Anxiety Disorder
There is no single causative factor that can result in SAD. While what causes the disorder is still a matter of discussion among scientists, several factors contribute to it.
1. Genetic Causes
Scientists have noted that SAD at times occurs in members of the same family. What is not clear to researchers is why some members of the same family can have the disorder while others don’t get affected by it.
2. Brain Structure
The amygdala is the region in the brain that plays a part in processing emotions which include your response to fear. Researchers believe that an overactive amygdala can trigger excessive reactions which result in social anxiety disorder.
3. Biological Factors
Scientists think that some chemicals your body produces can contribute to SAD. In particular, serotonin imbalance is thought to be a culprit. When the release of serotonin in your body is imbalanced, it can alter your body’s reaction to certain circumstances that might trigger SAD.
Signs and Symptoms
Some physical and behavioral markers can help you identify when you or a loved is experiencing SAD. These include:
- Being afraid of encountering strangers
- Fear of anxiety that tends to amplify pre-existing anxiety
- Being fearful of meeting those in authority
- Panic attacks or extreme anxiety when facing dreaded situations
Social anxiety disorder can also cause physical symptoms that you should look out for. These include clammy hands, eye contact avoidance, difficulty talking (with the voice at times becoming shaky), heart palpitations, abdominal pains, and muscle tension.
Treatment and Management
There are several tools available to help you in overcoming social anxiety disorder and its effect on your day-to-day-life. These solutions are medical and therapeutic.
Psychotherapy is a tool meant to help you assess challenges in a realistic manner and manage SAD at a psychological level. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly useful as a psychotherapy tool in helping you understand that it is your thoughts that determine how you behave, and not the actions of others.
Through CBT you’ll be able to identify and alter negative thoughts about yourself that can heighten anxiety. CBT will involve a cognitive aspect meant to help you limit distorted thoughts. It will also include a behavioral aspect that will assist you change how you react to situations that can trigger anxiety.
2. Emotional Support Animals
An emotional support animal (ESA) is a pet companion that can help you alleviate some of the SAD symptoms. Although any animal can function in this role, dogs are particularly suitable. Whichever animal you choose as an ESA it has to be one that alleviates your anxiety, not causing more of it.
When you get an ESA, it is advisable to have it be with you in various contexts. That might call for you to fly with your pet when travelling, among other things. For your ESA to accompany you everywhere, it will need to be part of the certified emotional support animals on record.
Only a licensed mental health professional can issue a valid ESA letter. You can seek a legitimate emotional support dog letter from a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric nurse, professional counselor or clinical social worker.
Don’t Let Anxiety Control Your Life
Social anxiety disorder is a commonly occurring anxiety disorder that can affect you at an early age. SAD occurs in both children and adults and without any treatment or management can last the rest of your life.