Social Anxiety Disorder or SAD is a condition that many people suffer from. It is ironic that the initials of the disorder spell sad because the disorder is just that. It is very sad because the individual does not enjoy social interaction which is an important part of life.
SAD occurs in any situation where the individual will be doing something in front of or in the presence of other people. This can include working, meeting new people, making conversation, giving a speech, dining out, attending parties or events. Even using a public restroom can be a source of distress.
The Disorder is characterized by a “marked and persistent fear of social or performance situations with exposure to unfamiliar people or scrutiny. This fear is excessive and unreasonable. Exposure to the situation will provokes anxiety and distress and avoidance of the feared situation.” The fear occurs whenever unwanted attention may be focused on you or whenever you may be scrutinized or judged by others. It is an overpowering fear and dread that you may be rejected, humiliated or embarrassed. Anything that makes you the center of attention makes you feel extremely uncomfortable, out of control and truly helpless..75 % of the people with this condition have another disorder such as depression or alcohol or substance abuse as well.
The anxiety can produce physical symptoms such as blushing, dry mouth sweating, clammy hands, trembling, palpitations, an upset stomach and a shaky voice. The individual may experience difficulty concentrating and making eye contact with others. They cannot focus on anyone or anything but themselves and their own distress. The individual’s reaction goes well beyond shyness or normal discomfort. It has a crippling effect on their life.
There are things you can do to overcome social anxiety. You do not have to endure it. You can learn to enjoy social activity. Cognitive therapy has proven to be a very successful treatment. There are also medications that can mitigate the symptoms.
Patricia Frank is a Licensed Psychotherapist. She can be reached at 305-788-4864, 212-308-0309.