7.15.2017

Do You Have Social Anxiety Disorder?


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My kids always thought  I could talk to anyone.

But the truth is, I abhor crowds.

I usually keep my eyes on somewhere – like that window on my left  or the floor or just look down – when I am in seminars where a very lively seminar facilitator asks the attendees’ opinions (and believe me, I have been in countless seminars where we get asked one by one to share a very secret side of yourself – I so hate that, I swear).

My fun times are being alone. 

I love going to places when it is so dead – like not a lot of people are around.

I also don’t like going to social events as well, like family relatives birthdays and stuff. I am sort of a “hermit”, actually. 

I would rather curl on my warm bed and read a book than to go to a cousin’s birthday or a dead relatives’ birthday (because in our family, every single event is being celebrated).

The fact is, I go.

I do it anyway.

I never actually hermit myself to the point I cannot function.

I get over it and take control of the situation.

But guess what?

SOME PEOPLE CANNOT DO THAT!

LOOK! 15 MILLION PEOPLE HAVE SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER!

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Some people actually have SOCIAL ANXIETY and cannot function in social situations and are actually seeking out bona fide solutions for their anxiety!

Now with someone like me, I might grumble and dread it, BUT I DO IT ANYWAY.

I found out that’s mild on the scale.

Others CAN’T WORK, CAN’T LEAVE THEIR HOUSE, DREAD TALKING TO PEOPLE – their anxiety is ruining their lives!

SO, DO YOU REALLY HAVE SOCIAL ANXIETY?

Social Anxiety, Defined

Social anxiety can be confusing.

When you were a child, you may have wanted to play on your own and are especially quiet and withdrawn from others.

People just called you shy or quiet.

As you got older, people thought of you as anti-social, unfriendly, and didn’t want to participate.

These perceptions are often where the issues with social anxiety begin.

Social anxiety is a very complex disorder that can affect anyone, no matter their age or gender. Some people have other mental health disorders with social anxiety, while this is the only anxiety disorder others will experience.

What is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder that involves being in social situations and how your body and mind reacts to them.

It really is not shyness like many people think, but is something your body experiences when you are around other people.

Others define SOCIAL ANXIETY as a fear of social situations.

I thought about how I often feel myself shaking (like one time before a speech I was to make, my neck muscles literally shook, I thought I was gonna have a seizure, but of course, I did the speech anyway…)

What I am trying to say here is that most everyone, even the most seasoned speaker, have jitters when speaking in a crowd, and you can definitely not call that social anxiety.

Many people believe that social anxiety is the fear of being judged in a group of people, while others think it is linked to certain types of people.

So what is social anxiety?

All of the above.

Social anxiety is so complex that it is not the same for every individual with the disorder.

There are certain triggers – or situations – that will cause someone to react due to this type of anxiety.

You might find that it is the massive amount of people in a certain situation that causes you to have panic attacks from social anxiety, while your sister has it, but she only experiences the effects when around certain types of people, like her co-workers or her peers.

Social anxiety can also affect people differently, from causing intense emotional issues, to physical effects like a panic attack. This might include:
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Sweaty palms
  • Tunnel vision
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Loss of proper concentration
  • Mumbling speech
  • Sweating
  • Heart palpitations

Where Is Your Anxiety Coming From?

Social Anxiety is not like generalized anxiety disorder where you get a panic attack from no triggers, or post-traumatic stress disorder that is linked to a previous traumatic event.

Social anxiety is from something specific that occurs and causes the feelings or fears.

It often stems from a feeling of being judged. It is not just being around people that the majority of social anxiety sufferers experience, but of being judged. This can be any negative feeling, from how you look to what you will say or how you act. You have an intense fear of saying or doing something embarrassing, humiliating, or simply feeling inferior compared to other people.

This is why many people with social anxiety find that it is only triggered by certain groups of people making them feel more inadequate.

What do Others See?

When you have any form of anxiety, you often feel even more fearful and embarrassed because you think others can see how it is affecting you.

But you might like to know this is very rarely the case. Usually, others don’t even see a change unless you make it very obvious. It might feel as though your facial expressions are changing rapidly, that you are simply pacing more than normal.

But with social anxiety in general, you might have traits others notice in you, but don’t always realize it is from your anxiety. They often see someone who is:
  • Shy around other people
  • incredibly quiet
  • Doesn’t often start conversation
  • Mumbles or seems nervous when asked a question
  • Anti-social
  • Withdrawn from others
  • Flaky and skips parties a lot
  • Uninterested in social events
  • Unfriendly or stuck up
  • Aloof
This might be what others see.

They will not think you are suffering from social anxiety. You don’t owe it to anyone to change who you are and how you feel, but it can help to understand what your behavior looks like to people who don’t know you suffer from this form of anxiety.

Social Anxiety Vs Other Anxieties

Let’s talk a little bit about social anxiety as it relates to other types of anxiety disorders.

While there are similarities between this type of anxiety and others, you should still be fully aware of how they might be different.

1. Social Anxiety vs Generalized Anxiety Disorder

The first anxiety disorder to compare social anxiety to is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). With this form of anxiety, you typically have an overwhelming sense of worry, fear, and stress almost constantly. It is often not triggered by anything and can occur at any time or place. You can experience anxiety in crowds of people, like social anxiety sufferers do, but it may also happen when you are home alone, at work, in the car, on an airplane, even when enjoying time with friends.

The main difference is that with GAD, while you can have symptoms appear when in a crowd, that is not the only time you experience your anxiety and panic symptoms. It is also not uncommon for someone to have both social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder.

2. Social Anxiety and Panic Attacks

You may also notice some similarities between your social anxiety and panic attacks. The interesting thing is that panic disorder is frequently linked to social anxiety, but just because you have panic attacks as a response to your social anxiety, doesn’t mean you actually have panic disorder.

Why? Because panic disorder is usually defined as panic attacks that are not always triggered by something, similar to GAD. This means while you can get a panic attack while in a crowd of people or another place where you feel uncomfortable or inadequate, you may also get panic attacks while in an elevator alone or when driving on the highway, if you have panic disorder.

3. Social Anxiety vs Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Lastly, you should know about the differences between social anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. With post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), your anxiety and panic is from a specific traumatic event you experienced. This is mostly different from social anxiety, though there can be a few links.

First of all, if your traumatic event occurred in front of an audience, then you might have social anxiety that worsens as a result of your PTSD. This can happen if you already had social anxiety and something horrifying happened in front of other people, which now causes the social anxiety to be worse, but might have given you some mild PTSD from it as well.

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