Have you ever walked into a room to give a presentation that you had been creating for weeks then all of a sudden, your heart starts racing, you feel dizzy like you are about to pass out, your palms are sweaty and you are nauseous! Everything you had prepared for seems to disappear in an instant! Everyone is attentive, ready to listen to you and as they look at you your mind keeps racing with questions, “Am I making a fool of myself? What is happening to me? Why is my heart pounding so hard? Why is it so hard to catch my breath? Maybe this was not meant for me…”. Your mind keeps spiraling downhill with negative thoughts and you cannot wait for this to be over so that you can run out and catch some air.
Have you ever wanted to make friends and go to events, but every conversation is a struggle? Deep within you are fearful that you may say something awkward, embarrass yourself and get judged. People may think you are anti-social, yet you are not. What you may be experiencing is Social Anxiety Disorder, and you are not alone. Approximately 5 to 16% of adults in US have been diagnosed with a Social Anxiety Disorder in their lifetime 1,2. Social Anxiety is a situation where you have excess fear in social interactions because you think you may be judged or scrutinized by others, you worry about embarrassing or humiliating yourself, or offending someone. Social Anxiety may change over time and can flare up under stress. Having Social Anxiety may affect your school, work, and other social activities. A person with Social Anxiety may want to avoid certain situations including but not limited to:
- Interacting with unfamiliar people or strangers
- Attending social gatherings
- Going to work or school because of the social interactions
- Starting conversations
- Making eye contact
- Entering a room if people are already seated
- Using a public restroom
- Eating in front of others
Avoiding such situations may SEEM to make you feel better but that does not solve the issue. There are several evidence-based interventions that have been proven to work in addressing Social Anxiety3.
- Psychotherapy/ cognitive behavior therapy which teaches you different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to situations in ways to feel less anxious and fearful.
- Joining a support group with people who have social anxiety
- Medications such as anti-anxiety medications/ antidepressants or beta blockers.
- A combination of both psychotherapy and medications
- Mindfulness training
- Social skills training
- Exercise and relaxation techniques
The first step to treatment is talking to your health provider who will establish a diagnosis and advise you on what to do. Your provider may refer you to a psychologist, psychiatrist, clinical social worker, or counselor.
For more information on Social Anxiety Disorder and evidence-based interventions, go to: National Social Anxiety Center or Center for Clinical Interventions
1. Stein DJ, Lim CCW, Roest AM, et al. The cross-national epidemiology of social anxiety disorder: Data from the World Mental Health Survey Initiative. BMC medicine. 2017;15(1):143.
2. Miloyan B, Bulley A, Brilot B, Suddendorf T. The association of Social Anxiety Disorder, Alcohol Use Disorder and reproduction: Results from four nationally representative samples of adults in the USA. PLoS ONE 12(11): e0188436. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0188436. 2017.
3. Bandelow B, Michaelis S, Wedekind D. Treatment of anxiety disorders. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2017;19(2):93-107.