What is social anxiety disorder?

It’s fair to say that most people have experienced some form of social anxiety, whether it was feeling nervous before speaking in front of a group or meeting new people. Palms can get sweaty, your heartbeat can become more rapid, and some people may even feel a tightness in their chest. Most people can “deal” with social anxiety and are able to work their way through the uncomfortable sensations. However, if you have social anxiety disorder, these feelings are magnified. In fact, they can make social situations completely debilitating, where you are unable to handle the situation or function normally. Individuals with social anxiety disorder (also called social phobia) have extreme reactions to social situation and feel very self-conscious or embarrassed because they fear being judged or scrutinized by other individuals.

What are the symptoms of social anxiety disorder or social phobia?

The symptoms of social anxiety disorder go beyond the normal trepidation individuals can feel from time to time in a social situation and can be mild to extreme. Some symptoms include:

  • Intense fear of social situations
  • Fear of speaking to someone or making eye contact
  • Worry about embarrassing yourself or humiliating yourself
  • Fear that you may be judged negatively
  • Expecting the worst-possible thing to happen
  • Fear or extreme worry about physical symptoms (which may also occur) such as:
    • Sweating
    • Blushing
    • Heart palpitations
    • Trembling
    • Having a shaky voice
    • Breathing problems
    • Upset stomach
    • Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
    • Fatigue
    • Irritability or restlessness

How common is social anxiety in adults?

If you have social phobia or a social anxiety disorder, you are not alone. Between 5 and 10% of the adult population have social anxiety disorder and it is twice as common in women as in men. As many as half of the population with this type of anxiety have gone untreated and one-third have reported having social anxiety symptoms for 10 years before seeking treatment.

What causes social anxiety in adults?

There is not a known cause for social anxiety, and it can occur at any age. Therapists and current research suggest a combination of heredity or genetics, environmental factors and/or a history of negative experiences. For instance, being abused, bullied, or having ongoing conflict with family could all contribute to developing social anxiety.

Chemical imbalances in the brain can also have an impact in social anxiety disorder; a chemical known as serotonin is responsible for regulating mood. An overactive amygdala (a structure in the brain that controls fear response and feelings or thoughts of anxiety) may also cause or contribute to social anxiety in adults.

Anxiety can run in families; however researchers are unsure of if it due to “nature” or “nurture.” A chemical imbalance may exist, but a child may also learn anxious behaviors from an adult or develop the disorder by having an overcontrolling or abusive parent.

Is there a treatment for social anxiety in adults?

The good news is every year, we understand more and more about social anxiety disorder and there are treatments that can help. One of the most successful treatment for adult social anxiety is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. There are also medications that can help. Often a social anxiety therapist will recommend both.

What is a Social Anxiety Therapist?

Dr. Kathleen Yen, Adult Anxiety Therapist and Psychiatrist, treats patients from Bellaire, West University & Houston, Texas who have social anxiety disorder. As a social anxiety therapist, Dr. Yen uses the following therapies to help people with this illness and may use a combination, depending on her patient’s needs:

Will I have social anxiety forever?

Social anxiety is a mental illness that requires help from a qualified therapist, because it doesn’t “go away” without treatment. The good news is there are excellent, proven treatments that can help you overcome the symptoms of social anxiety and Dr. Yen can help. Contact our office today!

For more information on Adult Anxiety and the excellent treatment options available, please contact the office of Dr. Kathleen Yen, Adult Psychiatrist serving Bellaire, West University and the Houston, Texas areas.