What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety is a mental health condition that affects the way people interact with others around them. It can make them feel self-conscious and uncomfortable in social situations. Social anxiety is a condition that manifests in numerous ways, but may not always be obvious.
Social anxiety can be acute or chronic. It may be diagnosed as generalized, or it may only affect one specific area of social interaction. Typically, people experience fear or anxiety in response to a potential cause of embarrassment or pain. Rejection, embarrassment, mockery and failure may come to mind for someone experiencing social anxiety disorder.
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is the most common type of anxiety disorder among adults in the United States. It is characterized by significant levels of fear about one’s ability to interact with other people; fretting about how they are judged during everyday interactions; excessive self-consciousness; strong feelings of inadequacy; and avoidance behaviors like staying at home most days
What Causes Social Anxiety?
Possible causes of social anxiety disorder can be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. For example:
- Anxiety disorders often run in families, but it is difficult to tell how much of this is due to genetics and how much is due to learned behavior.
- Some evidence points to the amygdala, a structure in the brain that may control fear, being related to anxiety in social situations. Research shows that people with an overactive amygdala are more likely to have a heightened fear response.
- It is possible that people may have learned to have social anxiety from a past event. It’s also possible that there is an association between social anxiety disorder (SAD) and how your parents behave when in social situations. Your parents might either act anxiously themselves or be more controlling or overprotective of their children, which may make it more likely for you to develop the disorder.
Social anxiety symptoms
- Some common symptoms include feeling afraid of being judged or humiliated in front of others,
- Fear of physical symptoms such as blushing, sweating or shaking are quite common among people who have anxiety.
- Avoiding people can be seen as a common solution to making you feel more at ease.
- Avoiding any situation where there is a chance that you’ll be the center of attention.
- People who suffer from social anxiety tend to find themselves under a lot of fear and anxiety in social situations.
- Some people with social anxiety might show signs of it through analyzing their performance during an interaction.
Social anxiety risk factors
There are several factors that can contribute to the likelihood of developing social anxiety. These include:
- If your family members suffer from social anxiety disorder, you’re more likely to as well.
- Children who are often teased, bullied, rejected or ridiculed may be more prone to social anxiety disorder. In addition, other negative events in life such as trauma and abuse may also contribute to this condition for some people.
- Kids who are shy, timid, or withdrawn in new situations may be more likely to experience social anxiety.
- Although symptoms of social anxiety usually start during the teenage years, but new events may trigger symptoms for the first time.
Social anxiety treatment
There are two main types of therapy for social anxiety: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy. With CBT, the person learns ways to stop or reduce anxious feelings by changing their behavior or thoughts. Exposure therapy helps the person gradually face their fears in a safe environment with gradual exposure to more difficult situations until they reach a point where they feel comfortable in any situation.
The Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale
The Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale is a 24 item questionnaire that was developed by the psychiatrist and researcher Michael Liebowitz for assisting in social anxiety disorder diagnosis. The Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale was originally intended as a rating scale for clinicians, but is now being used as a self-report scale. Research has shown the self-report questionnaire to be highly reliable and consistent with the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale clinician-administered version.
This scale measures social anxiety in various situations. You will see two questions for each situation. Please answer them thoughtfully. The first question deals with your anxiety level and you’re expected to rate this on a scale of 0-10. The second question deals with how often you avoided the situation; also graded on a scale of 0-10. When you come across a scenario that is unfamiliar to you, imagine how it would feel in that situation and then rate the extent to which you would fear it and how often you think you would have avoided the situation. Please rate the following questions based on how they have affected you in the last week.
Social Anxiety Test
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