Here is information about Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and how it manifests in people who suffer with it.
Social anxiety is not just about feeling a little shy in social situations, social anxiety goes way beyond shyness, it becomes a crippling phobia of being in the company of other people or by being somehow shamed in social situations.
The cause of Social Anxiety Disorder is a serious worry about what other people think of you, or how you are and everything that you stand for. It is a feeling that you are somehow different to others and a belief that you don't fit in with other people or you are not worthy of their company. It's a very real fear that you may be judged by others because of who you are and your quirks and personality traits and will not be socially accepted by them.
It is a fear of people seeing the real you or seeing your Anxiety and just how scared you feel. Because you really don't want people to see this fear, you begin to feel the symptoms that you do not want others to see whilst in their company and you become aware of this. It causes you to dread social interaction and you become consumed by anticipation anxiety before such interactions, feeling overwhelmed by your fears about what may happen and how you could be shamed, so much though that you avoid going altogether. This avoidance is key to keeping your fears alive and your symptoms current.
People often think of shyness as being related to Social Phobia. They're similar, but shyness is more of a general inhibition in front of others, and doesn't always include the physical symptoms of panic that are part of Social Phobia.
Social Anxiety/phobia is all about being really self conscious for whatever reason and can affect different people in different ways such as:
- Fear of getting embarrassed in front of other people
- Fear of people seeing your anxiety
- Fear of people being able to see you for who you are
- Not accepting yourself and who you are
- Fear of being in meetings or Attending job interviews
- Fear of choking on or spilling food while in public
- Fear of being watched at work
- Fear of introducing yourself to other people
- Fear of public speaking
- Fear of using public toilets
- Fear of writing or signing documents in the front of other people
- Fear of busy crowds
- Fear of taking exams.
- Fear of eating in restaurants or pubs
- Fear of having people visiting you at home or fear of going to meet friends yourself
It can either show in a generalised way where you fear a variety of different interactions or maybe focuses on something specific such as public speaking.
Social Anxiety Disorder has similar symptoms to Panic Disorder as both conditions feature Panic Attacks as a reaction to the way that you are feeling, however there are ways to see the differences in the two as the Panic Attacks that people suffer with Panic Disorder are different to the Panic Attacks suffered in Social Phobia.
Social Phobia Panic attacks feature more outwardly observable symptoms such as blushing, excessive nervous sweating, trembling limbs and changes in voice such as voice cracking which are not typical of Panic Disorder.
The reason in Social Phobia that they seem to have all these noticeable symptoms is because that is the very thing people suffering are trying to avoid - others seeing that they are nervous. This is key in defining the issue.
Because people try so hard to hide these symptoms, actually the very opposite occurs and they end up showing others just that.
Then the cycle begins. People hideaway more and more as the anticipate the return of the symptoms if they have to enter other social situations. If they do manage to go, they spend their time focusing on themselves and the symptoms and they happen again. The cycle is strengthened each time and will play again and again.
Social Phobia tends to develop as a reaction to how you deal with the uncomfortable emotions of fear, shame and embarrassment that begins and keeps you in the cycle of this disorder.
You tend to feel a powerful urge to keep these negative aspects of yourself secret and will do anything to oppose your symptoms. So for example someone who is aware of a shake in their voice may plead with themselves "please don't let my voice shake when I present" and will maybe throw a question out to the room to distract other people from noticing that your voice is shaking.
These three emotions are usually emotions that you hide at all costs because you don't want others to see this part of yourself and to judge you. This leads to secrecy and this secrecy is the driver behind Social Phobia.
Actually people with Social Phobia rarely behave as they think they will and take me for example, even though I was so painfully shy, interestingly I came across to others like I was a confident out going person, The problem was though that I just felt as I had forced an "act" to hide how I was feeling inside, like I had bluffed my way through it and luck had got me through. I believed each situation was survived by luck alone and not that I got through things because I could. All this did was make me feel worse the next time.
One final thought. In my own journey, when I began to re enter social situations I began to become aware that what I feared the most never seemed to happen. In fact what I was conjuring up in my head was not reality at all. I became shocked at what I could create in my head and also was amazed at how much of my life and living I had missed out on, due to something I had imagined in my mind's eye.
Prove to yourself that it's not real, because it is not real.
A final point that is really important. Work on accepting yourself just as you are. Anxiety and all. Stop caring what others may think, if they do think the worst then that is their problem not yours. Everyone has issues, everyone has something that bothers them if it is not anxiety it will be something else as no one is perfect. For the right people to accept you then you have to be who you are, if you are trying to be someone else and hiding your true personality then you will attract the wrong people to you anyway. Be who you are and take your personality with you. Once I had made this mental shift in how I looked at things and accepted myself, the symptoms no longer bothered me. I do not suffer socially anymore.
It is possible to regain your quality of life. I am living proof of that.