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Do You Have Social Anxiety?

Posted 03-11-2014 05:33 PM by ChristaIB
Updated 04-15-2014 06:28 PM by ChristaIB

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Does the thought of going to a party literally make you sick to your stomach? Do you find that you're not just awkward in social situations, but that you're actually terrified of meeting new people? If you have these feelings, you could have social anxiety.

Also called social phobia, social anxiety is a disorder that is characterized as being more than just a little shy or introverted. With social anxiety, you have a very specific and very real set of physical and emotional responses to social interactions, especially when new people are involved.

Signs of Social Anxiety

For teens who are in the midst of finding themselves and are trying to fit in with peers, social anxiety can take a toll on their lives. In addition to nausea and fear, people with social anxiety may also experience a host of physical and mental/emotional symptoms.

Physical
  • Racing heart
  • Dry mouth
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • A tightness or choking sensation in the throat
  • Blushing
Mental/Emotional
  • Extremely negative thoughts about social situations, such as “They’ll all hate me”
  • Extremely negative thoughts about themselves and their behavior in social situations, such as “I can never say anything right”
  • Extreme self-consciousness regarding their performance, appearance, and behavior in social settings
  • Avoiding certain behaviors, such as drinking alcohol, that would affect their control over their behavior,
  • Overindulging in alcohol, or other substances, in an effort to relieve the anxiety
  • Anxiety about appearing anxious, which creates a vicious cycle

Treatments for Social Anxiety

In most cases, people with social anxiety disorder recognize that their thoughts and emotions are irrational, but they are powerless to overcome them. All is not lost, however, for there are several treatments and therapies to help people overcome social anxiety disorder.

Therapy

Behavioral therapy helps people with social anxiety to turn off the negative thought patterns that contribute to the anxiety, while building their social skills and helping them find ways to behave so they feel safe in social situations.

Medication

Medication can work in tandem with therapy to help reduce the anxiety associated with social interactions.

Anti-anxiety medications have a sedating effect to help calm your emotions. These medications include:
  • Ativan
  • Valium
  • Xanax
  • Klonopin
Antidepressants work on a chemical level to manage and control the brain chemicals believed to cause social anxiety. These medications include:
  • Nardil
  • Paxil
  • Cymbalta
Beta blockers work on the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as sweating and heart palpitations. These medications include:
  • Inderal
  • Tenormin
Your doctor could prescribe any of these medications individually, or in various combinations, depending on the severity of your condition. It is also possible that your doctor could prescribe the medications in the early stages of your treatment, then slowly wean you off them if it appears that you can manage your condition without them.

Other Coping Techniques

Stress reduction and relaxation techniques, such as meditation or journaling, can help you prepare yourself in advance for dealing with social situations. These techniques can also reinforce the work you do in therapy, and you can use them along with any medication you take.

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