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What Is Social Anxiety, Anyway?

by John Montana(more info)

listed in anxiety, originally published in issue 235 - January 2017

The question of what is social anxiety is a simple one to answer, yet the answer raises a great many new questions. At its core, social anxiety is a type of anxiety related to social interaction. People with problems of social anxiety tend to report a great deal of intense fear and uncertainty in social situations, ranging from buying a snack at the supermarket to a job interview they absolutely cannot screw up on. This intense fear and uncertainty is for many sufferers tied to social interaction and all the possible consequences of a particularly bad social interaction, ranging from a simple social faux pas to losing the job that keeps them afloat financially.


Montana 235 Anxiety


But what is social anxiety like to the people suffering from it? Most people know what social anxiety is like from childhood, yet many tend to grow past the initial difficulties of learning how to get along with others. For those who experience this problem into adulthood, many describe it as being a powerful fear of rejection and punishment if they say or do the wrong thing while dealing with other people. These fears get more pronounced the more intense the anxiety is, which often leads to a downward spiral of tension and terror that leads to the exact same problems the sufferer feared in the first place. For most people suffering from social anxiety, these problems emerge only in stressful situations, such as high pressure meetings or trying to make important first impressions.

For other people these problems are more prolific. Some people tend to experience social anxiety more often than others, ranging from the problem being a bit more common to being out right debilitating. Sometimes this anxiety blossoms into full-fledged delusions of potential consequences; while these are not exactly the pointed delusions of paranoid schizophrenia, they can none the less be quite terrifying to the person having them and more than a little detached from reality as well. When social anxiety of this type becomes a more frequent and at times incapacitating problem, the person suffering from it is often said to have social anxiety disorder. However, other mental illnesses such as severe depression and autism can often induce similar feelings of unease when dealing with social interaction in people who already have serious problems.

Which then Leads us to the Question: What IS Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social anxiety disorder is another kettle of fish all together. Described as a persistent and pervasive pattern of social anxiety, this disorder can easily become a severe problem. While most people with the disorder are simply uncomfortable with social interaction in any form, the more severe the disorder… the more pronounced the feelings of fear and unease and the more frequently they occur. A mild case may simply be feeling tense and uneasy around other people, while more severe cases may involve delusions and hyperventilating just to cope with the stress the sick mind puts on the person. There are a number of ways to treat this disorder, from willful socializing to psychiatric medication, but getting the right one can be a difficult thing to accomplish.

Social anxiety disorder is a serious condition today. Self-consciousness and anxiety arise from the fear of being criticized, judged or/and closely watched by others. Persons with social anxiety disorder are afraid that they will look bad, make mistakes and feel embarrassed or humiliated in the eyes of others.

The truth of the matter is that social anxiety disorder can seriously cause harm in a person’s life. The symptoms could be so serious… that they disrupt daily life. For example, these people mainly have few or no social or romantic relationships; which leaves them feeling powerless, alone and ashamed every time. 

Statistics show that about 15 million adult Americans have social anxiety disorder. 36% of the number reported symptoms dating back more than 10 years before seeking help. Even though a large number of people recognize that the fear is excessive and unreasonable, they mainly feel powerless against their anxiety.

Situations that provoke anxiety include:

  • Speaking in public;
  • Eating or drinking in public or in-front of people;
  • Writing, working or reading in-front of people;
  • Being the center of attraction or attention;
  • Giving reports in groups or asking questions;
  • Using public toilets;
  • Talking over the telephone and much more.

Its Symptoms

  • Excessive worrying about what people will view them;
  • Sleeping problems;
  • Irrational fears;
  • Muscle tension;
  • Chronic indigestion;
  • Excessive sweating while in front of people;
  • Diarrhea, stomach upset, blushing, shaking, increased heart beats and confusion.

What Is a Social Anxiety Disorder Test?

This is a type of test that is aimed at determining if a person is suffering from social anxiety disorder. You will be asked some questions from a diagnostic questionnaire. Depending on the way you answer each question, it will determine if you are suffering from social anxiety disorder. All the questions must be answered truthfully. The good thing is that there are similar scales designed for kids. Every question asked will mainly revolve around the way you or your kid behaves around other people.

At the same time, your GP will want to rule out other possible causes of your fear. It could be such as generalized anxiety disorder or agoraphobia (a fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult, or where help would not be available if things go wrong). They will also look into other conditions. What does this mean? It simply means that they will explore whether you have any other problem that would need to be treated separately; like depression or alcohol or drug problems.

Treating Social Anxiety Disorder in Adults

There are various treatment options available, which include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy;
  • Supported self-help;
  • Antidepressants;
  • Psychotherapy.

In conclusion, realizing that not everything is the end of the world will help you relax more often. Psychologists advise that you treat everything in life as a game. If something goes wrong, you can try it again or try it another way. These are some of the most important tips to overcome your anxiety disorder. But if these conditions persist, then it is ALWAYS advisable to seek professional help.


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About John Montana

John Montana is an actor living with his wife in L.A. and has begun to make short films. His most recent film, “Hungry” has been accepted into 24 film festivals all over the world. John may be contacted via Check out his short films at No Title Production Films.

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