Right now, more than 15 million people in the United States suffer from social anxiety disorder. That accounts for nearly 7% of the country’s total population, meaning you’re not alone if you feel funny in public. Meanwhile, over 75% of those cases started in childhood, and prolonged or unmanaged symptoms often lead to serious mental and emotional health issues.
Social anxiety disorder is even linked to an increased risk of substance abuse and major depression. Therefore, it’s imperative to understand the causes and effects of this diagnosis to seek treatment when it’s necessary.
What is social anxiety disorder?
Social anxiety disorder, or SAD, is a mental health condition that causes irrational anxiousness in social situations. As a chronic ailment, it can come and go or range in severity depending on how a person feels outside of their comfort zone. However, many people with the condition experience similar symptoms even in casual settings.
Contrary to popular belief, SAD symptoms aren’t indicative of low emotional intelligence. In fact, they’re usually a sign of quite the opposite. Many people develop social anxiety after dealing with unpleasant surprises, trauma, or embarrassment. That means they must have been very intuitive in the first place.
Social anxiety disorder can develop at any age and for a wide variety of reasons as well. So, it doesn’t affect a person’s ability to sympathize with others or practice compassion. In truth, it only limits a person’s ability to express themselves fully and honestly in public or large groups.
The primary causes
Navigating life when you have social anxiety disorder isn’t always easy, but it’s possible when you understand the underlying causes. By recognizing the triggers, you can more efficiently avoid them or even work on better ways of coping with them. This is especially important if you work around other people or need to interact with the public on a regular basis.
In most cases, SAD is caused by mental, emotional, or physical trauma in either childhood or adulthood. Unlike many other trauma responses, this one isn’t always directly related to the cause. For example, a child who experienced bullying might develop social anxiety disorder when dating later on in life. While their potential partner(s) haven’t caused them trauma, they may still become neurotic as a result.
Meanwhile, here are some of the other potential causes of SAD:
Usually, the negative events in our lives are what shape us the most. Social anxiety disorder is a prime example of that. So, while each person processes trauma differently, those who develop SAD symptoms generally have few effective coping mechanisms. To change that, you must be able to recognize the red flags ahead of time.
Common symptoms of SAD
Coping in public with social anxiety disorder means understanding the disorder and its side effects better than anyone else does. So, learn about the most common symptoms to determine when and where you should implement your best coping mechanisms. Here’s what to look out for:
• Rapid heart rate
• Uncontrollable perspiration
• Upset stomach
• Shortness of breath
• Shakiness or jitters
• Flushed skin
• Sweaty palms
• Loss of focus
• Inability to concentrate
• Irrational fear
• Complete avoidance
Keep in mind that each one of those symptoms requires its own coping strategy. So, speak to a qualified professional if you’re having trouble staying calm in social situations.
The 5 best coping mechanisms for social anxiety disorder
The most effective coping strategies for social anxiety disorder often involve shifting your mindset from a self-destructive frame to a more positive and uplifting one. Most of the work is internal, meaning very little is ever changed in the outside world. Instead, these mechanisms help SAD sufferers find peace in the middle of chaos.
#1. Take control of your breathing.
It may sound silly or obvious, but your breathing pattern and speed can have a tremendous effect on how nervous you feel at social gatherings.
#2. Get prepared ahead of time.
Try to anticipate some of your social anxiety triggers before the event begins and set up relaxation systems for yourself just in case things get too hectic.
#3. Keep the focus off of yourself.
Don’t completely shut down but monitor yourself and try not to overshare because it makes you look more nervous and also causes privacy problems.
#4. Beat back the negative self-talk.
Stop letting your inner monologue dictate how good or bad you feel about yourself in public. Use positive mantras and motivational tools instead.
#5. Start with something small.
Don’t jump right into a large social gathering and expect to feel comfortable. Rather, begin with a small get-together and work your way up from there.
Social anxiety disorder doesn’t have to ruin your social life if you learn the most effective ways of coping with it.
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