Social Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis and Treatment

Social Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis and Treatment

Learn about social anxiety disorder and its causes, signs, symptoms, and treatment options.

 

Table of Contents

What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social anxiety disorder, also known as SAD, is a type of phobia in which the individual has a severe and excessive fear of social interaction. SAD can vary in severity, from general anxiety about social situations to a debilitating fear that can lead to isolation and decreased quality of life. 

How Common Is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social anxiety disorder is one of the most common phobias. In the United States alone, around fifteen million people over the age of eighteen suffer from social anxiety disorder.1

When understanding this number, it’s important to recognize that SAD is more than just shyness, which may be present at all stages of life. The feelings of social anxiety are much more severe.

What Does Social Anxiety Feel Like?

Social anxiety goes beyond general shyness, as it is a debilitating fear of being judged. For many, SAD feels like the person is constantly being watched by peers and those around them in a social situation with the intention of judging. This can result in severe anxiety about embarrassing oneself or being humiliated.2

As a result, the feelings of social anxiety can lead to isolation to reduce the symptoms that occur in a social situation.

Social Anxiety vs. Avoidant Personality

Although social anxiety disorder can lead to avoidant tendencies, it is not the same as avoidant personality disorder. SAD is an anxiety disorder and type of phobia, while avoidant personality disorder, or APD, is a cluster C personality disorder.

At a glance, both conditions are extremely similar. In fact, most differences are found in logistics and terminology, which can impact how either is treated. 

Risk Factors for Developing a Social Anxiety Disorder

While there is no single cause of social anxiety disorder, there are certain factors that may increase the risk of developing the disorder. These can include:

Are Women More Vulnerable to Social Anxiety?

Women are more likely to experience social anxiety than men. Additionally, women tend to experience more severe symptoms than men.3

Social Anxiety in Teens

The teenage years can be a difficult time for many as they grow into this new phase of life. Generally, shyness and even mild anxiety are common during this time, especially with the transition to high school and the beginnings of adulthood.

 

Regardless, severe anxiety that prevents students from attending school or causes incapacitating symptoms that keeps them from engaging in social interaction may be indicators of social anxiety. In many studies, the teenage years have been considered the time when social anxiety disorder may become more noticeable.4

Signs and Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder

signs of social anxiety disorder

The first step to receiving a diagnosis for social anxiety disorder is to recognize and identify the signs and symptoms. Symptoms of social anxiety disorder can be either emotional, physical, or behavioral and may include:

Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder in Children

Social anxiety disorder may present differently in children and teenagers. Younger children may not be able to verbalize their feelings properly, but reluctance to be in social situations, strong emotions around strangers, isolation, or other similar signs may be noticeable.

 

Some children may also present with signs of general anxiety, such as difficulty sleeping or stomach issues like nausea. 

How Is Social Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed?

Social anxiety disorder is recognized in the DSM-5, the latest edition of the manual used to identify and diagnose mental disorders and illnesses. As a result, there are several possible methods to diagnosing social anxiety, including conversations with a doctor and specific tests.

 

For children and teens, a health professional may schedule interviews with family members in order to gain a better understanding and perspective of the severity of signs and symptoms. 

Treatments for Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is a debilitating phobia that can prevent people from enjoying social situations with friends and loved ones. Nevertheless, like many other phobias or disorders, there is a range of treatment options available for those with SAD. 

Psychotherapy

Different forms of psychotherapy may be useful in treating social anxiety disorder. Psychotherapy promotes mindfulness and encourages individuals to better understand the source and reality of their thoughts. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, helps people better understand the connection between their thoughts and behaviors. This can be used to promote a more positive mindset that allows for better management of symptoms. 

Medication

Medication can help address the root of anxiety while working to help reduce the severity of symptoms to a manageable level. Medication may be used alone or in combination with different types of therapy. 

Support Groups

With so many people in the United States dealing with social anxiety disorder, many support groups are available throughout the country. Since support groups revolve around social interaction, it can be intimidating. However, it acts as exposure therapy and helps individuals develop a more comfortable mindset in social situations by beginning in a small, secure environment.

In addition to in-person groups, social support groups can be found online. 

Finding Help

While finding treatment for social anxiety disorder can be daunting, it doesn’t have to be. There are many treatment options available, ready to help you restore your everyday quality of life at a comfortable pace. At J. Flowers Health Institute, we have a full staff of professionals who are ready and eager to approach your individual situation with empathy and healing. We are ready to help you take back control over your own life journey. Contact J. Flowers Health Institute today and begin your journey to a better life.