Updated: Nov 1, 2021
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), or social phobia, is a type of anxiety disorder. It has to do with extreme fear of social situations, fear of being judged, disliked, evaluated by others. Of course, it’s not unusual to hear your heartbeat in your ears before a public speech or feeling anxious before meeting strangers in formal or informal settings. The feeling of inhibition or shyness is not an unheard reaction for many in a new or unknown situation. However, suppose the fear regarding social events, whether personal or professional, leave you in a state filled with overwhelming fear and anxiety. In that case, you should know that SAD is not as rare as you think. But more importantly, you are not without hope or help. Read on to learn more about social anxiety disorder.
1) What Is Social Anxiety Disorder? and Is It Uncommon?
Social Anxiety Disorder is when someone has a long-term, excessive fear of social settings, so much so that it impacts the quality of life. It usually develops during the teenage years and has a distressing effect on those living with it. However, it is not as uncommon as you think. Studies show that SAD is one of the most common types of anxiety disorders – around 13 percent of Canadians live with some form of this anxiety disorder. And guess what? The pandemic has not helped matters when it comes to social phobias.
2) What Are the Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder?
Some of the most common symptoms of SAD are extreme anxiety regarding starting conversations, meeting strangers, going shopping, speaking on the phone, constantly worrying about being judged or embarrassing oneself, and feeling watched. Additionally, physical manifestations of this kind of anxiety include feeling sick, experiencing palpitations, blushing, sweating, or feeling incompetent. Issues of low self-esteem and panic attacks are also associated with social anxiety disorder.
3) What About Diagnosis and Treatment?
A trained mental health counsellor can help you with diagnosis and a treatment plan based on your descriptions. Anxiety counselling related to social phobias can help with easing your symptoms. Treatment for social anxiety disorder can vary based on the person. During an individual counselling session, your therapist will provide you with a treatment plan best suited to your needs. Types of therapy for anxiety disorders:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This technique is successful in treating phobias, panic attacks, and general and social anxiety. It focuses on everyday experience and targets your negative beliefs, unhelpful behaviours and their impact on your feelings and your life. When you’re using CBT in therapy, you learn to think and behave differently in order to reduce your anxiety.
- Exposure Therapy: The idea behind exposure therapy is that if you are fearful of something, the most effective way to overcome it is to face it head-on. The therapist, bit by bit, will introduce you to objects or situations that result in anxiety. The therapist will help you to write or create a list of anxiety-provoking triggers, ranking them in order of intensity. Then, you systematically expose yourself to the situations in a structured and supported way.
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): This therapy is helpful for different kinds of anxiety disorders. The premise of ACT is that it requires you to identify your values in life and match your actions according to those values.
Social phobia can be distressing and overwhelming. Most of all, it can be disruptive – living with the fear of being judged, scrutinized, and never being able to let your guards down is exhausting. The debilitating effect it has on the quality of life can only be understood by those living with it. But it’s not a problem without a solution. Anxiety counselling has helped people to take back control of their lives. The journey towards healing is far more assuring than a journey of silence and suffering. In the words of the well-known American actor Mariska Hargitay, “Healing takes time, and asking for help is a courageous step.” If you’re struggling, we’d be happy to help.
If you’re looking for anxiety counselling Sherwood Park, Ward & Associates Psychological Services is here for you. We specialize in individual counselling for adults, teens, and children and couples counselling and trauma counselling for first responders. We also offer online therapy for clients residing in Alberta. Contact us to learn more about our services or to book an appointment.