Social Anxiety




Social Anxiety is characterized by fear and discomfort when in a social setting. Most people who have social anxiety are unaware and simply believe that they prefer to be alone and do not like to associate with people in the work place unless they must.

Take an online Social Anxiety self-assessment inventory.

Take a Social Anxiety self-assessment inventory. (This is a PDF file. To view it, you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader. To take the inventory, print the PDF file and fill in your answers.)

Social anxiety (SA) is one of the most common of all psychiatric problems. We all have periods of nervousness, butterflies in our stomach, or irritability around others and a wish that we could avoid certain situations involving people.

For most people these occurrences are rare and short-lived. For someone suffering with social anxiety, these situations occur nearly every day, are severe, and result in changes in lifestyle that significantly limit the person’s functioning in those situations.

Nobody knows the exact cause of social anxiety. The onset can be triggered by a complex interaction of factors. A particular genetic make-up can leave a person vulnerable to react with social anxiety symptoms.

Risk factors include one or more of: gender (women are more likely to have SA than men); genetic (a family history of SA); childhood experience (isolation, abuse, or deprivation); personality temperament (introvert, restrained); and life stressors in adulthood.

Sometimes social anxiety improves on its own over the course of time. It is usually chronic, however, and can worsen. Often social anxiety requires an effective treatment intervention to manage the symptoms.

Research indicates that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in combination with medication has the greatest likelihood of decreasing SA symptoms than treatment with medication alone. And treatment with the combination of medication and CBT increases the likelihood that improvement can be maintained.
The symptom of social anxiety occurs when certain circuits in the brain are not functioning normally. There is medication that helps restore the functioning of these circuits. As their functioning is restored to normal, the SA will lessen. A psychiatrist with special training in the use of medication for mood disorders will work with you to find the most effective medication or medications. For treatment to be successful, you and your doctor will address the medication dosage, the time of day to take the medication, and the duration of medication treatment.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a therapeutic process and strategies designed to help you change negative thought patterns that are habitual to more positive ones that help make your life better. CBT is based on the premise that your past experiences affect how you think in the present. How you think about things influences your feelings and the behaviors or actions and reactions that you choose.

Gradually, as the medication begins to work, treatment with CBT will help you learn new perspectives and strategies for dealing with situations that in the past have made you uncomfortable, irritable, or angry.

As SA symptoms lessen, you are no longer limited by continuing anxiety or irritability. Now that you are less reactive, the focus of therapy shifts to using an interpersonal psychotherapy approach to help you develop an improved self image and ability to function successfully.

Learn more about Social anxiety disorder at the Mayo Clinic web site. [LINK]