The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that 16.1 million adults in the U.S. suffer from Major Depressive Disorder each year. That is roughly 6.7 percent of the population.
Depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for those aged 15 to around 45 years of age. When your mental health is bad it can have a devastating impact on your quality of life and prevent you from completing even the most basic daily tasks.
But what can be done about it? How can you restore the balance in your life and improve your quality of life?
Social Anxiety Self-Test
What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety disorder is characterized by an intense fear of being judged, negatively perceived, or rejected in a social setting. Individuals with this disorder may also fear appearing or acting visibly anxious or being perceived as stupid, awkward, or boring.1
People with social anxiety disorder may avoid social activities and often experience significant anxiety and distress when they cannot avoid social activities. They may also experience physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat, nausea, sweating, and panic attacks. These individuals often feel powerless over the anxiety they feel.1
Social anxiety disorder can create several challenges for those who have it. For example, they may decline job opportunities that involve interacting with new people or avoid going out with friends.1
Sometimes, the symptoms are so extreme that they significantly interfere with daily routines, performance at work, and social interactions. Those with social anxiety disorder are also at an increased risk for developing major depressive disorder and alcohol use disorders.1
Different individuals with social anxiety disorder will experience a different combination of triggers. One person may find making eye contact difficult but going on a date easy, while another may have the exact opposite experience.3
Emotional and Behavioral Symptoms
While researchers do not know the exact cause of social anxiety disorder, biological and environmental factors most likely play a role in its development. Some possible causes include: 5
If social anxiety disorder is not treated, it can lead to various issues regarding work, school, relationships, or daily activities. These negative impacts can include: 5
Other mental health disorders often occur alongside social anxiety disorder, particularly major depressive disorder and substance abuse problems. 5
It is impossible to predict what will cause someone to develop an anxiety disorder like social anxiety disorder. Specific actions may reduce the impact of anxious symptoms. These steps include: 5
CBT is considered the best treatment method and helps individuals identify their negative thought patterns and behaviors and alter them into positive ones. 7 This form of psychotherapy can also change behaviors and reactions associated with situations that trigger anxiety. 6
Exposure therapy is also helpful for people with social anxiety disorder. In this kind of therapy, the individual gradually works towards engaging in the situation they are afraid of with a therapist and in a safe environment. 6
Tips for Overcoming Social Anxiety
Increase Attendance at Social Situations Gradually
People who have social anxiety disorder usually avoid social situations that trigger feelings of anxiety. This avoidance can make the anxiety worse over time, even though it reduces the anxiety in that moment.8
Gradually increasing exposure to feared social situations, sometimes with the help of a therapist, can allow for a potentially positive experience with the situation. This positive experience can reduce the anxiety associated with that situation and boost confidence in the individual’s ability to overcome fear. 8
Take Time to Relax
Engaging in certain activities can cause feel-good chemicals to release into the brain, relieving stress and anxiety. These activities can include listening to music, reading, playing a video game, or meditating. Doing one of these activities before going into a feared social situation can reduce some anxious feelings. 8
Holding onto the idea of being shy or socially anxious will reinforce the fears associated with interacting with others. One CBT-related technique involves reframing, which helps individuals recognize that they can change their perception of themselves. For example, “I am shy” can turn into “I acted shy at a previous gathering.” 8
Avoid Relying on Alcohol
Communication is another excellent way to offer support. This communication can look like having an honest conversation about your feelings with a trusted friend or family member if you struggle with social anxiety disorder. If you suspect a loved one is struggling with social anxiety disorder, it may be helpful to set them aside and express your concern while assuring your support for them. 9
Know When to Seek Help
If the effects of social anxiety disorder begin to cause problems in your life or the life of someone you love, such as avoidance of social situations at school, at work, with friends, or with family, it is time to seek help from a professional and get the necessary treatment. 9