Social anxiety disorder is also called social phobia. It is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by an intense and unreasonable fear of social situations. This anxiety comes from a fear of being judged and criticized. Over 19 million Americans have this disorder, making it the most common anxiety disorder and the third most common mental disorder in the United States. More common in women than men, this disorder usually appears in adolescence or early adulthood, but may occur at any time, even childhood.
An individual with social anxiety disorder fears that he or she will make errors and be humiliated in front of other people. The fear may magnify because of a lack in social skills or experience. The anxiety may be so intense that it can transform into a panic attack. Because of the fear, the person either tolerates social situations with extreme frustration or avoids them completely. Further, individuals with social anxiety disorder often experience anticipatory anxiety, or the fear of a situation before it happens. In many situations, the individual with the anxiety is aware the emotions and thoughts are unreasonable, but is unable to control it.
People with social anxiety disorder have distorted thinking. This includes false beliefs and negative opinions. Without treatment, their condition can disrupt daily living. Education, work, social life, and relationships can be affected. People with this disorder may be afraid of an isolated and specific scenario. However, most people with the condition fear more than one situation. Situations that provoke anxiety are: Public speaking. Being in the spotlight. Using public restrooms. Interacting with people (dating, going out, going to parties). Asking questions or giving reports in groups. Eating in front of others.
Working in front of others.
Social anxiety disorder may be connected to other mental illnesses, like panic disorder, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Many people with this disorder feel don’t recognize their feelings as signs of mental illness. They just think that something is wrong with them. Symptoms of social anxiety disorder may involve: Overwhelming anxiety in social situations Confusion Heart pounding Sweating Shaking Blushing Muscle tension Upset stomach and diarrhea
Avoidance of social scenarios
The treatment of social anxiety disorder may include therapy, lifestyle changes, and medication. Lifestyle changes alone are usually not enough to correct the illness, but they can help. These changes reduce anxiety levels. They include limiting or avoiding caffeinated items, like coffee and soda. Caffeine is a stimulant when it comes to anxiety. Further, avoiding alcohol is a key step, as alcohol increases the chance of having an anxiety attack. Quitting smoking is another change that can be beneficial, as nicotine is a stimulant. Thus, smoking may lead to anxiety. Further, lack of sleep may lead to anxiety. Therefore, it is very important to get adequate sleep to help you stay calm and collected in social settings. When it comes to medication, social anxiety disorder may be treated with some types of antidepressants, beta-blockers, and benzodiazepines. Cognitive behavioral therapy and group therapy can really help when it comes to this form of mental illness.
An individual with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has unreasonable thoughts and fears, or obsessions, that make him or her engage in repetitive behaviors, or compulsions. The person may realize that his or her obsessions are unreasonable. He or she you may opt to ignore them. This only increases anxiety and frustration. The individual, in turn, tries to perform the compulsive acts in order to ease the feelings of anxiety. Because of this, more ritualistic behavior ensues. It is a vicious cycle. Obsessive-compulsive disorder usually plays around themes, like the fear of being contaminated. To pacify these fears, the individual may repeatedly wash his or her hands until they are sore and hurt. In spite of all efforts, the thoughts keep returning. Both obsessions and compulsions are included in the obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms. The OCD obsessions are persistent and unwanted thoughts and images that come involuntarily. The obsessions usually come about at random. Common OCD obsession themes include fear of dirt or contamination, aggressive impulses, sexual thoughts, and the need to have things organized. OCD obsession symptoms include: Doubt that you have turned off the stove or lights or locked the door Thoughts that you have hurt someone in an accident Frustration when objects are not orderly or in symmetry Fear of being contamination through handshakes Images of harming your child Desire to shout obscenities in unlikely situations Hair loss because of pulling hair Skin conditions because of repeated hand washing Skin lesions due to picking skin Replaying obscene images in mind
Avoidance of situations that may offset obsessions
OCD compulsions are behaviors that you cannot resist repeating. You repeat them to stop or reduce the anxiety or distress that comes with your obsessions. For example, if you think that you left the door unlocked when you left the house, you may go back to the house and check the door repeatedly because you cannot shake your doubts. You might also create rules or rituals that help you control the anxiety related to obsessive thoughts. Like the obsessions that come with obsessive-compulsive disorder, compulsions usually have themes. These include counting, checking, organizing, washing, cleaning, asking for reassurance, and performing the same movement or action. OCD symptoms related to compulsions include: Washing your hands until you damage your skin Checking the stove or oven to make sure you have turned it off Counting in specific ritualistic patterns Checking doors to make sure that you have locked them
Making sure all your boxed foods are orderly and face the same direction
Some people are perfectionists and like to keep things neat and organized. These people do not suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be very time-consuming. It can be disabling. An individual with OCD may not be able to do anything but spend time on obsessions and compulsions. An adult may realize that the actions and thoughts do not make sense and are uncontrollable. A child with OCD, however, is a different story, as he or she may not understand that there is something wrong.
A specific phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. It goes beyond the typical phobia, in that it lasts long and is unreasonable in nature. A specific phobia comes about from the presence or thought of an object or situation. There is actually no or little danger involved. However, exposure to the object or situation makes the individual with the phobia react with severe anxiety. The individual may choose to avoid the situation or object completely. He or she may feel so much distress that normal life may be interrupted. Adults with specific phobia usually know that the fear and anxiety are unreasonable, but cannot control it. The different types of specific phobias are based on the situation or object that is feared. A person can have more than one of them. They include:
Situational phobias: fear of driving, going over bridges, flying, using an elevator, and more.
Natural environment phobias: fear of heights, storms, bodies of water, and more.
Animal phobias: fear of snakes, dogs, bugs, and more. These are the most common specific phobias.
Injection-injury phobias: fear of injury, seeing blood or of some types of medical procedures.
Other phobias: fear of falling, loud sounds, clowns, and more.
Symptoms of specific phobias include: Unreasonable fear of an object or situation. Avoidance of the object or situation. Coping with the object of fear with great anxiety. Physical symptoms, like a sweating, trembling, shaking, fast heart rate, nausea, diarrhea, numbness, tingling, breathing difficulty, dizziness, choking sensation.
Anticipatory anxiety, which is characterized by being nervous about possible upcoming situations involving the object of the specific phobia.
In the United States, there are over 6 million adults with specific phobias. Phobias usually first develop in adolescence and adulthood. They can occur in children, as well. They usually subside over time when it comes to kids. When it comes to the genders, they are somewhat more common in females than in males. They start suddenly in adults and last longer than childhood phobias. About 20 percent of specific phobias go away without treatment in adults.
Even though the exact cause of specific phobias is not known, most of them are associated with a horrific experience or learned response. A person who has been bitten by a dog, for example, can develop a specific phobia toward dogs. Witnessing a horrific event can also cause a specific phobia, as can receiving information about possible dangerous situations. A fear can be learned from other people. If parents react with fear toward a cat, their child may react the same way.
In order to diagnose a specific phobia, a doctor will make sure that symptoms are present. He or she will then perform a physical exam and record the medical history of the patient. There are no lab tests that diagnose specific phobias, but the doctor may use other tests that rule out the case of physical illness causing the symptoms. If physical illness is not the problem, the patient will then be referred to a psychologist or psychiatrist. Treatment may include cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) used to be called shell shock or battle fatigue syndrome. This type of anxiety disorder develops after a person has witnessed or experienced a traumatic or horrific event that involved serious physical harm or threat. PTSD is a lasting effect of these types of traumatic situations. It is the long-term reaction to high levels of fear, helplessness, or terror. Situations that may result in this include sexual or physical assault, war, accident, the sudden death of a loved one, or natural disaster. The victim is not the only person that can develop this condition. PTSD can affect the families of victims, as well as emergency personnel and rescuers.
When most people experience trauma, they may feel anger, shock, fear, nervousness, and guilt. These common emotional reactions occur in most cases. They subside with time. A person with post-traumatic stress disorder, however, experiences an increase of these feelings. The increase is so dramatic that it keeps the person from functioning normally. Everyday life is disrupted. Symptoms go on for over a month and the victim cannot function as in the past.
The symptoms of PTSD usually begin within three months of the traumatic event. In some cases, the symptoms do not begin until several years after the trauma. The duration and intensity of the symptoms vary from one person to the other. Some people get better within six months, while others suffer for a longer period. The symptoms of this type of anxiety are usually divided into three categories:
Re-living or re-playing: Individuals with PTSD repeatedly re-live the ordeal in their heads. They have memories of the trauma that haunt them. These include hallucinations, nightmares, and flashbacks. They may also feel grave discomfort and anxiety when they face triggers of the trauma, like the anniversary date of the event.
Avoidance: Because of the distress and anxiety, the person feels in the face of people, places, or situations that bring memories of the trauma, the person may isolate from family and friends. Further, he or she may not enjoy certain activities anymore.
Arousal: This refers to the excessive emotions the victim may feel. He or she may have issues when it comes to relating to others. It may be difficult for him or her to feel or show love and affection. Irritability and lack of sleep may be issues, as well. Further, the person may have sudden outbursts of anger and may be startled easily. Physical symptoms connected to arousal include increased heart rate and blood pressure, rapid breathing, as well as tense muscles, diarrhea, and nausea.
Post-traumatic stress disorder first entered the medical spotlight due to the condition of war veterans. This is why it used to be called shell shock and battle fatigue syndrome. PTSD, however, occurs in the case of various types of traumatic events. Individuals who have experienced abuse during their childhood, as well as people who have repeatedly found themselves in life-threatening situations are at a higher risk for developing this condition. Victims of trauma connected to physical and sexual abuse have the highest chance of developing PTSD.