"When I would walk into a room full of people, I'd turn red and it would feel like everybody's eyes were on me. I was embarrassed to stand off in a corner by myself, but I couldn't think of anything to say to anybody. It was humiliating. I felt so clumsy, I couldn't wait to get out."
If this sounds like you, you may have social anxiety disorder, also called social anxiety disorder.
Social anxiety disorder involves overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in
everyday social situations. People with social phobia have a persistent,
intense fear of being watched and judged by others and being
embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions. Their fear may be so severe that
it interferes with work or school, and other ordinary activities. While many
people with social anxiety recognize that their fear of being around people may
be excessive or unreasonable, they are unable to overcome it.
Social anxiety disorder can be limited to only one type of situation- such as a fear of speaking in formal or informal situations, or eating, drinking, or writing in front of others-or, in its most severe form, may be so broad that a person experiences symptoms almost anytime they are around other people. Social anxiety disorder can be very debilitating-it may even keep people from going to work or school on some days. Many people with this illness have a hard time making and keeping friends.
Physical symptoms often accompany the intense anxiety of social anxiety disorder and include blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, nausea, and difficulty talking. If you suffer from social anxiety disorder, you may be painfully embarrassed by these symptoms and feel as though all eyes are focused on you. You may be afraid of being with people other than your family.
People with social anxiety disorder are aware that their feelings are irrational. Even if they manage to confront what they fear, they usually feel very anxious beforehand and are intensely uncomfortable throughout. Afterward, the unpleasant feelings may linger, as they worry about how they may have been judged or what others may have thought or observed about them.
Social anxiety disorder affects about 5.3 million adult Americans. Women and men are equally likely to develop social anxiety disorder. The disorder usually begins in childhood or early adolescence, and there is some evidence that genetic factors are involved. Social anxiety disorder often co-occurs with other anxiety disorders or depression. Substance abuse or dependence may develop in individuals who attempt to "self-medicate" their social anxiety disorder by drinking or using drugs.
There are a variety of treatments for social phobia, including carefully targeted psychotherapy or medications.
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Social anxiety disorder can severely disrupt normal life, interfering with school, work, or social relationships. The dread of a feared event can begin weeks in advance and be quite debilitating.
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