Social anxiety disorder occurs when you become very anxious and overly self-conscious in what could be considered a normal social interaction. And, as a result, you suffer great emotional distress because you think that you are being judged and evaluated by other people. Social anxiety symptoms are likely to manifest themselves in the following situations: 1) you meet someone for the first time, 2) you get teased or criticized, 3) you are aware of being watched while you are doing something, 4) you become the center of attention for an extended period of time, 5) you are introduced to someone who is in a position of authority, 6) you participate in an ice-breaking activity that requires you to speak, or 7) you are involved in some type of interpersonal relationship. Now, while this list is pretty descriptive in giving you a general idea of what social disorder is, this list is by no means exhaustive. Most of the above situations will give rise to physical symptoms. You may sweat profusely, breathe fast, feel your heart pounding in your chest, and so on. As a result of the above, you may find yourself practicing the following behaviors so that you remain ‘safe’: 1) Speaking quietly or mumbling so no-one can hear you 2) Speaking quickly so you can “get it out of the way” 3) Not wanting to say anything that disagrees with anyone else because everyone will then look at you and you will feel embarressed 4) Avoiding eye contact because you know you will go red (and if you go red everyone will notice which will make you blush even more!) … and so on. If you seek professional medical help in dealing with your social anxiety symptoms, you may very well get prescribed either some type of medication and/or some type of psychotherapy or psychiatric therapy. The medications that are likely to be prescribed to you include, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) (such as fluoxetine; tricyclics (such as imipramine); monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) (such as phenelzine); high-potency benzodiazepines (such as clonazepam, and azapirone); and beta-blockers (such as propranolol).
The psychotherapy that is usually prescribed is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) which is a very active and focused type of mental treatment. This particular therapy has been proven to be very successful in treating those who suffer with social anxiety. When you suffer from social disorder, it is not recommended that you force yourself to experience the types of social interactions that cause your distress. At the same time, it is not recommended that you avoid them altogether either. Instead, you should take your time to slowly and gradually work yourself up to the place where you really see yourself being eventually. One of the ways to do this is to find a way to re-think your interactions. Next time you find yourself in a social situation and you are feeling a little anxious, change your thoughts. Look at the first situation above. If you are about to meet someone, instead of thinking ‘they will find me boring and uninteresting’, change this to ‘I am going to give this person a warm smile and firm handshake. They will soon see what an interesting person I am.’ If you keep this up, these kind of positive thoughts will soon become second nature. Also, you can help yourself deal with your social anxiety symptoms by using the following self-help strategies: try to avoid or limit your caffeine intake, moderate your alcoholic beverage intake, quit smoking, and get yourself adequate amounts of sleep.