It’s normal to feel nervous on certain occasions, like your first day of work or when you’re on a first date.
While it’s common to get nervous in social situations, persistent feelings of fear that make you want to avoid socializing can indicate a bigger problem. Social anxiety disorder, also referred to as social phobia, is an anxiety disorder characterized by intense feelings of fear or anxiety of being judged by others, negatively viewed by others, or rejected in a social setting. People who have social anxiety may stutter or blush when they feel anxious in a social setting. Understanding social anxiety disorder is important because more and more people seem to be struggling with this condition. Social anxiety goes beyond mere shyness or stage fright and can lead to self-isolation and other forms of mental illness if left untreated.
As a nationwide addiction and mental health treatment center, we know how important it is to learn about social anxiety disorder. You can break the stigma of mental health and assist a friend or family member who may be struggling with this condition.
What Causes Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety can cause someone to avoid situations where they have to socialize with others. Going to school, work, family outings, gatherings with friends, or even going to the grocery store can become a nightmare for people struggling with this disorder. Some possible social anxiety disorder causes are inherited traits, environment, brain structure, and physical conditions. Like many other kinds of mental illness, anxiety disorders are often passed down through generations. It’s unclear, however, whether social anxiety is passed down through genes or learned from observing behavior, which brings us to an individual’s environment.
A person’s daily environment can also cause social anxiety disorder. This disorder can be learned through observing the behavior of another person. Parents who have this condition themselves may unknowingly “teach” their children how to be socially anxious. Some people may also develop this condition after a bad experience in a social situation where they felt ridiculed or extremely embarrassed. Shyness is very different from embarrassment, in that the former is a personality trait while the latter is more of a reaction. Parents who are more protective or controlling over their children may also invoke social anxiety symptoms.
Brain structure is another cause of social anxiety disorder, particularly in the area of the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is a mass of almond-shaped gray matter in the cerebral hemisphere of the brain that controls behavior and emotion, particularly fear. Individuals who have experienced head trauma or injury to their amygdala, or have an overactive one, may have a heightened response to fear.
An outwardly noticeable condition may also contribute to a person’s social anxiety. Having an apparent disfigurement or physical condition that affects your outward appearance can increase feelings of self-consciousness. A person in this situation may feel as if they’re being judged or ridiculed by others, triggering social anxiety.
Whether it’s learned, genetic, or physical, a person with social anxiety should get help. At Banyan Treatment Centers, we offer a mental health program that addresses disorders like social anxiety to teach patients how to cope with their symptoms.
Signs of Social Anxiety Disorder
Many people don’t fully grasp the concept of social anxiety disorder or understand that it’s a legitimate disorder. A common stigma is that teens and young adults feel that their parents don’t understand social anxiety disorder. Understanding social anxiety disorder requires you to learn its signs. In order to empathize with and help those with this condition, you need to know what signs to look out for.
Some common signs of social anxiety disorder include:
- Worrying about embarrassing yourself in front of others
- Intense fear of socializing with others
- Fear of experiencing physical symptoms that could cause embarrassment, like blushing, shaky voice, or even gas
- Avoiding situations that require you to interact with others
- Fast heartbeat
- Intense sweating
- Troubling breathing
- Muscle tension
Avoiding everyday social interactions can also indicate social anxiety. Body language like avoiding contact, wringing your hands, or nail-biting are also signs of social anxiety. While this condition may be difficult to pinpoint, the more severe it gets, the more obvious it’ll become. Understanding social anxiety disorder is important to prevent symptoms from worsening. If you notice these signs in yourself or someone else, a residential mental health program can help.
Your mental health should not be taken lightly. Many people who attempt to ignore their symptoms or avoid receiving treatment often turn to other dangerous coping methods, like substance abuse. Co-occurring disorders are common in people who avoid mental health treatment.