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What is Social Anxiety?

Jasmyn J, Contributor

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According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, social anxiety disorder or social phobia is a variation of anxiety disorder, a mental health disorder that is “the intense and continuing fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation.” People with this disorder constantly worry that they seem or look weird, that people think they are not interesting or uncool and have intense waves of fear just doing simple tasks like asking for help in a store, interrupting class to sharpen a pencil or throw something way, or feeling exposed or vulnerable at social events like parties or dances. It affects nearly 15 million adults in the United States, and usually begins in the teenage years. For most people, it is normal to have some nervousness or fear in situation where they are put on the spot or have to speak in front of people, but social anxiety disorder takes this to a whole new level. This disorder cause people to have serious problems with all types of social interactions and actions. They overthink everything will avoid these interactions as often as they can. This disorder can seriously handicap their friendships, relationships, school and work. There are many symptoms of this disorder, including: blushing, stumbling over words, trembling, dizziness, twitching; especially around the face and neck, trouble making eye contact, picking or handling a phone, and fidgeting when being talked to, and sweating. There is not a clear definite reason why some people develop this disorder and others don’t, but researchers believe that past experiences like bullying, rejection, humiliation, family problems and abuse can contribute. Another reason could be having an overactive amygdala, which is the part of the brain that regulates response to fear, or having a particular physical feature that sticks out or is uncommon that a person could feel self- conscious about. Children who are shy and have controlling or “helicopter” parents are also likely to develop this disorder. Anxiety disorders also usually run in families. However, social anxiety can be treated. The most popular and effective method is cognitive- behavioral therapy with a psychologist or therapist, either independent or in a group. This method focuses on realizing that what you think affects your feelings, and then how you feel affects your behavior. If people can change the way they think about social interactions from negatively to positively, you will be more confident and behave better in these situations. However, it is very important to find a professional who is personable and not to clinical, and who really understands anxiety and how it actually makes people feel. Some just wave it off as “You’re overreacting” or “Just face your fears and they’ll go away,” because this is wrong. Anxiety and social anxiety make people actually feel this way perpetually, and it’s a very real feeling for them. It isn’t something that can just be controlled or “turned off.” One of the worst things that can be done to a person with social anxiety is to assume they are just pessimistic or disinterested people. Many of them want to be social, bubbly people, but their anxiety is mentally and sometime physically holding back. If you are suffering from social anxiety, it is important to let your friends and family know so that they can support you, and if you think someone you know might be suffering from this disorder, the best thing you can do is give support, kindness and patience.

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