Research on the many shades of anxiety disorders, a topic of increasing relevance in today’s race-to-the-finish society, shows that social anxiety disorder is the most prevalent of anxiety issue among adults. The number of sufferers rises every year. This might be because it went ignored for so long.
Classified for years as ‘awkwardness’, ‘pathological shyness’, and most recently ‘social phobia’ (which makes it sound the same as a fear of spiders), social anxiety disorder has been misunderstood for years, leaving sufferers asking helplessly “what is wrong with me?” without knowing that social anxiety is quite common. You may think you’re alone, but you’re certainly not. Nothing is “wrong”, at least not in the unfathomable, irreparable way you might think.
What are the signs? Social anxiety is certainly beyond a characteristic shyness or being introverted. Social anxiety disorder means an overwhelming fear of situations like eating or drinking in front of others, being the center of attention during a social interaction, speaking in public, using public toilets, etc. As well as intense anxiety over being judged by others or making friends – remember, it could be any number of these things together, or something beyond the scope of this list. It is often accompanied by depression, obsessive compulsive tendencies, or feeling physically sick when called upon to participate in a high-stress social context. Perhaps the most difficult problem on the individual level is the feeling that the fear is unreasonable, yet you still cannot rise above it.
It is these things that bring people to seek help, often not realizing the source of the issue. Social anxiety disorder often begins in adolescence or even childhood and affects women and men equally, but doctors believe this anxiety can be eased with a combination of physical, mental, and medical treatment.
If you’re not comfortable with pills nor a fan of the psychologist’s couch, there are ways. TRE UK for instance offers the ‘no talking’ self-help technique that once learnt could work as it has for others, helping you feel more comfortable in social surroundings and more confident and communicative – you just need to find what works best for you.