Frequently Asked Questions
What is social anxiety disorder?
Social anxiety disorder refers to an excessive fear of being judged, negatively evaluated or rejected by other people. Affected individuals experience anxiety in social interaction, observation or performance situations, which often comes along with physical anxiety symptoms, such as sweating, shaking, blushing, or shortness of breath. Social anxiety is a normal and adaptive human trait, but referred to as a disorder when the person’s concerns are extreme and significantly affect her or his quality of life.
Is social anxiety curable?
Yes, there are several interventions that have been scientifically tested and proven effective in the treatment of social anxiety disorder. However, psychotherapy does not yield the same results for everyone. While some affected people experience a remission of the condition through therapy, others may reduce their symptoms through treatment but continue to experience elevated levels of anxiety in social situations even after treatment.
How is social anxiety treated?
Among the most commonly applied treaments for social anxiety disorder are cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, and interpersonal psychotherapy. Newer interventions include mindfulness and meditation-based approaches, compassion-focused treatments, as well as metacognitive therapy. Medication is also widely prescribed, with antidepressant medication, especially SSRIs, usually being the first choice.
Is social anxiety a disability?
Technically, social anxiety disorder is considered a disability. By definition, it has a significant impact on a person’s quality of life and represents a major obstacle in social and professional environments. However, whether an affected person qualifies for disability benefits depends on the country of residence and is usually decided after a thorough examination of each individual case.
Is social anxiety a mental illness?
Yes, when the anxiety is excessive. The term social anxiety refers to concerns about being judged, negatively evaluated or rejected by other people. This preoccupation is normal and adaptive, since it improves our chances to be accepted, included in and loved by our social group. However, when the fear of rejection becomes excessive, it leads to social isolation instead of affiliative behavior. Here, we speak of social anxiety disorder. While lower levels of social anxiety are normal and even helpful, social anxiety disorder is considered a mental health condition.
Is social anxiety real?
Yes, social anxiety was recognized as a psychological disorder by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980. While most people experience mild social anxiety in everyday life, social anxiety disorder refers to an excessive fear of being rejected or humiliated, which can be hard to comprehend for people who are not affected. However, many can get a glimpse of what it is like to live with social anxiety disorder by remembering a time they craved approval and dreaded rejection by someone important to them, and imagining to feel like this in most common social situations.
What causes social anxiety?
The following predispositions are believed to be possible causes of social anxiety: genetics, insecure attachment style, bad parenting (overly critical or protective), socially anxious parents, social isolation during childhood, having been frequently shamed by parents, traumatic social experiences, observational learning (seeing another person having a traumatic social experience), information transfer (adopting social anxiety by modeling parents’ behavior), negative life events (moving various times during childhood, being sexually abused, parents divorce, child illness, psychopathology of a parent, among others), social skills deficit, cognitive biases, biological vulnerabilities, cultural influences.
Are there different types of social anxiety?
Yes, there have been several proposals to divide socially anxious people into various subtypes. The most common one differentiates between generalized social anxiety disorder (anxiety in most social situations), nongeneralized social anxiety disorder (anxiety in most social situations but at least one area of normal social functioning), and specific social anxiety disorder (anxiety in only one or very few specific situations, e.g. public speaking). Another common way of subtyping seperates between the type of social situations a person fears: Does the individual experience social anxiety in performance situations, observation situations, or interaction situations? A third proposal differentiates between the main focus of a socially anxious person’s concerns: Does she or he fear behaving in an inept fashion, showing visible anxiety symptoms, or offending other people?
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