Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) can be debilitating. While everyone feels nervous when giving a speech or going on a first date, SAD causes severe anxiety in everyday interactions. Some individuals may find it difficult to speak to another person, or to talk or eat in public. Speaking to someone you don't know or interacting with co-workers causes such distress that some remain at home, to avoid any social situation.
Treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medication and counseling can help to alleviate or reduce symptoms.
There are so many myths and misunderstandings about this diagnosis, however, that many people do not seek the help they need. Below are five myths surrounding social anxiety disorder.
Myth: Social anxiety disorder is just an excuse, everyone gets nervous.
For individuals with SAD, anxious feelings go way beyond nervousness. The anxiety they feel is overwhelming. Even when they know the fear is unreasonable, they cannot stop the intense feelings of anxiety. For some, symptoms cause so much distress, it interferes with personal relationships and the ability to work. Research has shown that people with an imbalance of serotonin levels in their brain are more at risk for developing an anxiety disorder.
Myth: Social anxiety disorder is just another name for shyness.
Shyness is defined as "being uncomfortable with others" or being easily frightened in the presence of others. SAD is more extreme, causing impairment in different aspects of your life. It is much more severe than simply being shy. SAD is pervasive and causes more distress than shyness.
Myth: If you are diagnosed with SAD, you will need to be on medication for the rest of your life.
Many people choose to treat SAD through cognitive behavioral therapy or counseling, without ever using medication. Others may choose to be on medication for a limited time, while receiving CBT or other types of treatment. Your doctor will be able to set up a treatment plan for you, specific to your individual symptoms.
Myth: Very few people have social anxiety disorder.
According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, approximately 15 million adults in the United States have social anxiety disorder.
Myth: Social anxiety disorder can't hurt you.
Besides the very real psychological problems associated with SAD, when untreated it can cause high blood pressure, heart problems and gastro-intestinal problems. Many people also have physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, headaches and heart palpitations when experiencing episodes of SAD.
See more helpful articles:
"Social Anxiety Disorder", Date Unknown, Author Unknown, Anxiety Disorders Association of America
"Social Anxiety Disorder the Myths and the Truths", 2009, Free Online Library
"Shy", 2009, Encarta World English Dictionary