Akeem Marsh, MD, is a board-certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist who has dedicated his career to working with medically underserved communities.
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a mental health issue that involves a dread of social situations including performing or speaking in front of others for fear of being negatively judged. According to mental health experts, SAD impacts 7% of the U.S. population.
Although it's common for many people to experience nervousness or feel "butterflies" when facing certain social situations, people with SAD are extremely self-conscious and worry about what people think to the point that they often experience physical symptoms. These may include a rapid heart rate, sweating, blushing, nausea, shaking, and lightheadedness.
People with SAD often benefit from psychotherapy techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Medication is also recommended to help cope and take control of the situation.
Unfortunately, social anxiety disorder (SAD) is often dismissed as just extreme shyness. In general, the main symptoms that distinguish shyness from SAD are:
For most people, social anxiety does not go away on its own, but treatment for it has been found to be effective. Social anxiety that occurs in all situations responds best to a combination of medication and therapy, while therapy alone is often sufficient for people with anxiety specific to one type of performance or social situation. So, if you've been diagnosed or think you may have SAD, know that it's possible to overcome it.
While alternative treatments such as yoga or dietary supplements are not a substitute for evidence-based treatments for social anxiety, you may find that they help with particular SAD symptoms by promoting feelings of calmness. Alternative medicines should be considered complementary to treatments proven effective for SAD such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
An anxiety disorder is a serious mental health issue that causes a person to feel significant worries or fears. Because these worries will not go away on their own, they may get worse over time and can interfere with daily activities without treatment.
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that involves a persistent, excessive, and irrational fear of something like a situation, activity, object, person, or animal. Typically, people with phobias try to avoid the source of their fear; or if they cannot avoid the source, they may try to endure it even though they experience a great deal of stress and anxiety.
Psychotherapy is a process therapists use to treat mental health issues and psychological disorders. Through the use of different techniques and methods, a psychotherapist will help a client address psychological or life issues. While there are many approaches to psychotherapy, the overall goal is to help the client overcome problematic thoughts and actions.
SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are a class of antidepressants commonly prescribed to treat a variety of mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and more. SSRIs work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, which is believed to help regulate mood and anxiety.
ational Institute of Mental Health. Social anxiety disorder: more than just shyness.
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National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety disorders. Updated July 2018.
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