Introduction: Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
“I wake up every day with a weight on my chest and something squeezing my throat. I am being told that I am crazy and rude, and some people think I am just trying to make excuse. But that is not the case my dreams and hope are easily shattered by this uninvited guest called the anxiety which just pops up with a blink of an eye.
This anxiety has ruined all my relationships and has not let me grow. Does this anxiety realize how much I wish to be like others by being confident and stop thinking about what others think about me. It feels like the forest fire which just spreads and by the time it comes to control the territory is destroyed.
The more and more thoughts that come and go, I have begged my mind to control but in vain. The suffocation, the shortness of breath, the rising heartbeat, the palpitation, the frustration, has ripped off my peace and has replaced with unrest. Social anxiety doesn’t just ruin lives it stops you from living it.
It feels like burning, its feels like bleeding it is the mixture of all the pains but the only thing I can say is that “I am fine” because unless I can physically show someone my pain, nobody cares. But the most painful demons are the one we can’t even see. I am constantly trying to fight these demons and find solutions.
Some days a better but some days are even worse but they are just days and I have to deal with them. This is how I feel every day which is unbearable and all I want is to feel okay.”
If at all you find someone going through this pain, understand them and support them. They do not expect you to make effort for them, all they expect is to listen to them without judging them.
What is Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)?
Social anxiety disorder is defined as a “marked, and persistent fear of social or performance situations” Social Anxiety Disorder(SAD) is a prevalent mental disorder where individuals have trouble interacting with other individuals. They fear socializing, talking to people and meeting new people. It makes them uncomfortable. There is no specific reason for their discomfort but for them, it is a very stressful situation dealing with people in a social setting. Social Anxiety Disorder is also known as Social Phobia.
The symptoms for SAD may vary with individual depending on their intensity which may be Limited or Selective. It is not necessary that an individual suffering with SAD will show all the symptoms they may show just one or two symptoms. Physical Symptoms such as Stammering, Excessive Sweating, Rapid Heart Rate, Dizziness, Palpitation etc. Psychological symptoms such as Worrying about being Judged or Humiliated, Low Self-Esteem, Suicide Attempts, Isolation, Missing out on things, Low Academic and Employment Performance.
The exact cause for SAD is unknown. However, research supports the idea that SAD is caused by a few factors that include:
- GENETICS – Genetics play a major part in SAD. As SAD is reported in relatives of individual who have this condition than in relatives of individual who don’t have this condition
- ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS – Stressful events such as Being Bullied, Public Embarrassment, Violent Surroundings, Family Abuses, Assault etc.
- BRAIN STRUCTURE – Amygdala a structure in the brain plays a role in controlling the fear response. The individual having an overactive amygdala may have an increased fear response.
Different theories explain the origin of SAD through Ethological, Traumatic, Parental, Genetic, Neurobiological, etc. But to date, there is no proof that it is the sole cause for the disorder. Thus, SAD may be the result of different and complex mechanisms interacting together.
How can you help someone with SAD?
First, understand the illness, understand that it is a mental illness and is not similar to shyness or nervousness. Being anxious about Interviews, Exams, the First Date is normal but it is not the cases with people suffering from anxiety. An Individual Diagnosed with SAD shows symptoms regularly which interfere with all aspects of life i.e. social life, home life or work life. This interference can range from mild, moderate and severe. When you are approaching an individual diagnosed with SAD approach them with love and compassion make them feel at home and ease with they are talking to you. Few key points to note when you are helping someone with SAD
- Encourage them to consult a health care professional
- Listen to them without judging them
- Discourage alcohol/drugs/caffeine
- Encourage them to get a proper sleep
- Encourage them to undergo non-pharmacologic therapy like relaxation therapies (acceptance and mindfulness-based therapy in particular), cognitive therapies (cognitive behavioural therapy), or exposure therapy.
SAD is one of the most common mental disorder, which usually start at adolescent and prevails throughout our life. Without proper therapy, the disorder may become debilitating. However, with proper medication, therapy and guidance individual can lead a peaceful life.