Social Anxiety Disorder

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Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder or social phobia constitutes for a consistent pattern of behavior characterized by active avoidance of social situations, or experiencing the situation with excessive anxiety especially when a person anticipates scrutiny and negative evaluation by strangers    No need to scratch your head in confusion or scour through web pages because Dr. Asky’s Mental Health Awareness series is back again with an entirely new compilation of awareness videos made to help people understand mental health and the perils related to it.

First and foremost is an extreme level of anxiety about one or more situations in which a person is exposed to possible scrutiny by others, such as meeting unfamiliar people and dreading being judged negatively for how one talks, eats, walks, dresses – basically anything. However, it is not just limited to the fear of negative evaluation in social interactions but also all functional areas, mainly while performing before people, such as giving a presentation or speech before an audience. However, it is fascinating to see that the fear of negative evaluation is not merely a result of the situation a person is faced with – instead, it stems from their awareness about their anxious state. They feel that people would notice they are anxious, hence will negatively evaluate them, which is like a double shot espresso of anxiety. They are worried about being anxious, which further increases their anxiety by manifolds. Besides, before a diagnosis of social anxiety can be provisioned, it is essential for the clinician to note that the social situation almost always provokes fear or anxiety. Hence the social situation(s) is either actively avoided or dealt with extreme anxiety. Building on the last point, the fear or anxiety that one experiences should be out of proportion to the threat posed by the social situation and should stand against an understandable sociocultural context. Consideration of the cultural context is crucial while dealing with mental disorders, as each culture is different from another. It is essential for the clinician and the person who might be suspecting someone near them to be on the brink of developing a disorder to consider their cultural background. Lastly, the fear, anxiety, and avoidance of the social situation cause significant distress to the person – as was the case with Emily. She had much trouble attending her class presentation because of the fear of negative evaluation.

Have you been able to spot anyone around you who might have been missing out on parties or staying in hiding on a weekend night?  Or, someone who might feel taken over by excessive fear before a performance? Or perhaps, someone who is always overwhelmed a night before the actual event that they can’t sleep?

Consider watching this video to know more about what is anxiety attack….

As we have mentioned before, social anxiety is among the most common disorders, so it is natural to find symptoms of social anxiety in people around you. It is also essential to understand what causes underlie this condition and why this disorder is so prevalent. Over the years, humans have evolved, thanks to mother nature that has prepared them to fight any unforeseen situation and made them more receptive than ever to any threat in the environment. Similarly, it seems that it has prepared humans to fear angry, rejecting, or critical people. According to research humans learn quickly to fear angry expressions compared to all the other expressions and not just that, but more importantly, this fear subsides ever so slowly in comparison to any other kind of learning. Weird, right?!

But, that is just how we have learned to survive in the face of danger; against human aggressors and wild animals alike. Like our ancestors avoided hostile, angry, and domineering individuals who almost always formed the top tier of social hierarchy, we too try to sneak away from angry and critical humans. It seems our fears have stuck by our side, even though we have grown out of the primal environment – advanced in modern techniques and technology – but deep down, we are all just the same as our ancestors. This warrants biological vulnerability, i.e., since our ancestors were designed to fear certain situations, we too are biologically designed to become prone to developing social inhibition. Furthermore, there are learned behaviors that are transferred from one generation to another, such as the idea of a black cat crossing your path brings bad luck has been passed over from one generation to another – even though most people in our generation shun off the idea but the likelihood of it remains at the back of our minds.

Similarly, a person might experience negative evaluation once in a social situation, which might then be associated with the situation – such as, let us retake the example of Emily and picture her performing a skit before an audience. Right before she is about to deliver her dialogues, she stutters out of nervousness. Consequently, everyone in the audience laughs at her; from that day onwards, Emily avoids going out or performing before people out of the fear of stuttering again. What Emily has done is termed as classical conditioning, a psychological concept given by the physician turned research Ivan Pavlov. According to Pavlov, humans, and animals alike learn to react to stimuli in their environment after multiple pairings. However, in Emily’s case, the first incident had been enough anxiety-provoking that she had generalized the outcome of one mishap over all her experiences. She had inhibited herself from engaging in any performance based activities because she feared the same reaction from the audience. As a result, she developed what we today call the social anxiety disorder.

To conclude, we know that SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER is triggered in people due to their biological disposition, psychological vulnerability, and real-life experiences that are intense to the point that they lead to panic attacks, which is later anticipated in similar situations causing even more anxiety. Now, the question you must ask is what next? How does one deal with it? How does one identify it and seek a cure for it?

Like all other mental illnesses, it is vital for a person who might feel that they have symptoms for SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER to seek professional help from a therapist and, more specifically, a clinical psychologist that specializes in the field of anxiety disorders. As per the standard operating protocol, a clinician would order a psychological evaluation of the person’s symptoms to conclude if they qualify for a social anxiety disorder diagnosis and subsequently plan a therapy plan. Several individualized therapy plans are used to cure social anxiety disorder. However, cognitive behavior therapy has proven efficacy for treating social anxiety disorder, followed by acceptance and commitment therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, and therapies that target social anxiety’s maintenance factors. With that, we have come to the end of our first episode of anxiety-based disorders, and we hope that you have learned a thing or two about social anxiety. If this video has helped you in any way, please let us know in the comments section below, and don’t forget to like and share our video with your loved ones – because, as we always say, mental health is as important as your physical health!

Until Next Time,

Team Doctor ASKY!

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