Support Options for Social Anxiety Sufferers
Anyone living with social anxiety well knows the distress and frustration that comes at the thought of meeting new people or having to perform in front of a group of people. While most people may experience some degree of anxiety when faced new social settings, someone living with social anxiety will go to great lengths to avoid unfamiliar social situations, and in the worst of cases, avoid social interactions altogether.
According to the Perelman School of Medicine, within the United States, social anxiety ranks third as the most common mental disorder. When left untreated, social anxiety disorder can greatly limit a person’s overall lifestyle in terms of missed opportunities and eventually, social isolation. Fortunately, a range of treatment options exists for anyone seeking help for social anxiety.
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Features of Social Anxiety
Social anxiety stirs up feelings of anxiety that have no rational basis, a characteristic that most characterizes this condition. Someone living with social anxiety knows his or her feelings are unfounded, but remains powerless to do anything about it.
Another distinguishing feature of social anxiety involves the avoidance aspect in terms of what a person may be willing to sacrifice in order to avoid a social encounter. A certain degree of self-consciousness also contributes to feelings of unease as social anxiety sufferers have a sense of being watched and judged by others. Other features of social anxiety include:
- Fear of being humiliated
- May be fearful of eating or drinking in the presence of others, or just standing around others
- Physical symptoms, such as trembling, difficulty speaking, blushing, sweating
- Panic attacks
Much of the distress brought on by social anxiety stems from the belief systems a person has regarding self and others. These belief systems form the basis for the negative thinking patterns that trigger feelings of fear and anxiety.
According to the University of New Mexico, behavioral therapy treatment works to replace negative belief systems with a more reality-based perspective on self and others. This can be done using one or more different approaches, some of which include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Support groups
- Group therapy
- Relaxation training
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction
Ultimately, behavioral therapies help you work through the underlying issues that feed social anxiety and replace destructive coping behaviors with healthy strategies for managing stress and anxiety.
Medication Treatment Options
While behavioral-based treatments can go a long way towards helping work through the faulty thinking that drives social anxiety, people living with severe forms of the disorder will likely require a combined treatment approach that uses both medications and behavioral interventions. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, medications commonly used to treat depression work well in reducing anxiety levels for social anxiety sufferers.
Anti-anxiety medications also do a good job at alleviating high anxiety levels, though neither depressants nor anti-anxiety drugs should be taken on a long-term basis. In effect, medications should only be used as a supportive measure in terms of enabling a person to apply strategies learned in behavioral treatment in daily life.
Social anxiety can be a debilitating condition wrought with missed opportunities in the workforce as well as missed chances at friendship, love and happiness. Avoiding social interaction not only takes away from your quality of life, but also feeds into the disorder causing symptoms to worsen in severity over time.
If you or someone you know struggles with social anxiety and have more questions about available treatment options in your area, please don’t hesitate to call our toll-free helpline at 800-481-6320 to speak with one of our phone counselors.