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Understanding Social Anxiety is Half the Battle


Alcoholism and depression are the two top mental health care problems. But number three on this list is social anxiety disorder, formerly called social phobia. Fifteen million Americans suffer from social anxiety in any given year. Yet, approximately ninety percent of people suffering from social anxiety are misdiagnosed with other behavioral disorders.

Understanding the symptoms may offer people better insight and opportunity to have this common disorder treated. The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health says symptoms of social anxiety disorder may include:

• Feelings of extreme self-consciousness around others.
• Excessive fear that others are watching and judging you.
• Excessive fear of embarrassment.
• Worry that persists long before an event actually occurs.
• Physical symptoms stemming from anxiety, including sweating, feeling nauseous, shaking and blushing.

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The exact cause of social phobia isn’t known. This sometimes debilitating disorder may run in families. It is thought that the balance of certain chemicals in the brain may play a role.

With social anxiety disorder it appears that everyday interactions such as work, play, family and relationship can cause extreme fear and self-consciousness. In fact, it may become very difficult to do simple things like check out at a grocery store.

In recent years there have been great advances in the treatment of social anxiety due to progressing awareness and acceptance of social anxiety as a serious condition. Both traditional and non-traditional medications have helped as have behavioral therapies. Some people find that the combination of both medication/supplement and behavioral therapy work the best.

Many behavioral methods have been studied and the one that has proven the most effective so far is cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is essentially turning one’s thoughts, or cognitions, away from irrational thinking and negative analyzing and toward a more rational and positive direction.

Understanding social anxiety is half the battle in defeating this disorder that affects 15 million Americans.