Many people aren’t comfortable with large crowds or public speaking and avoid those situations at all costs. But if avoidance and fear become the ruling dynamic in your life, you may be experiencing the first signs of depression or, more significantly, social anxiety disorder. How can you improve your life?
WHAT IS SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER?
“People with social anxiety disorder (or social phobia) are extremely anxious about what they will say or do in front of other people. This includes public speaking and day-to-day social situations. But it is more than just being shy or nervous before public speaking. The fear can begin weeks or months before an event. It can cause a fast heartbeat and make it hard to focus.” Fortunately, many symptoms are treatable with proper medical care.
SYMPTOMS OF SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER
Like other illnesses whose symptoms can often be treated with ketamine therapy and other methods, social anxiety disorder’s warning signs vary by person and circumstance. If you experience any of the following, you may be in the early stages of the condition: upset stomach; sweating; muscle tension; fear of negative judgment, self-humiliation, and social interactions; and general avoidance of social interactions and relationships. Seek help if the symptoms begin taking over your daily life.
HOW IT RELATES TO DEPRESSION
Depression and social anxiety disorder are two separate conditions, but they have many overlapping symptoms and often happen at the same time. According to research by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, many study participants nationwide “are more likely to experience depressive symptoms and have poor quality of life and vice versa.” Social anxiety disorder is known for its fear-induction signs, while depression can result in deep sadness and anxiety.
HOW CAN YOU TREAT SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER?
Initially, talk with your doctor or healthcare provider about signs and symptoms. Your doctor should do an exam but may refer you to a professional specializing in mental health, like a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, or clinical social worker. The road leading to effective treatment normally begins with a diagnosis, usually provided by a mental health specialist.
It’s important, however, for you to find a treatment you’re comfortable with and can commit to. Without regular therapy or medicine of some kind, you may never learn to control social anxiety symptoms. What can you do? Here are some coping strategies.
- Talk with a trained mental health specialist to work through your problems. Remember, social anxiety disorder is separate from depression, and it’s more than a case of the occasional blues.
- Try to minimize situations you know may trigger social anxiety disorder. This often means recognizing triggers as they happen, documenting when they occur, and tracking any other information useful to you or your therapist.
- Do away with negative thoughts and the predilection for allowing bad scenarios to play out in your mind. Small social blunders don’t always mean people will judge you harshly.
- Exercise regularly. Something as simple as a walk around your neighborhood daily will do wonders for your psychological health.
- Take small actions to reclaim your life and your self-confidence. This could be as basic as saying hello to a stranger while shopping or answering a question out loud at school or work.
DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT
Your doctor or mental healthcare provider will need to decide whether other ailments may be causing your anxiety, or if you suffer from social anxiety disorder and another physical or mental health illness. Diagnosis depends on a physical examination and tests to rule out a medical cause for your condition, while a psychiatric evaluation investigates thoughts, behaviors, feelings, and personal and family history of mental illness. A key component of diagnosis is comparing your symptoms to those in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.
Once you’ve been diagnosed, you and your healthcare provider will talk about treatment options. More people are opting for ketamine therapy to treat symptoms of mental illness and chronic pain conditions, but there are other choices. You may be agreeable to in-person or out-patient psychotherapy, certain medicine like antidepressants, or – in extreme cases – short- or long-term hospitalization.
If you experience symptoms of social anxiety disorder or depression, you’re not alone. Depression affects millions globally, and the World Health Organization calls it a leading source of disability. If symptoms like intense fear and the desire to avoid stress-inducing situations begin to rule your life, act. Talk with a doctor or mental healthcare specialist and learn as much about your condition as possible. Therapy is available, but only you can take the first step.