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Elizabeth Plumptre: Managing the Menace Called Social Anxiety Disorder

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Are you terrified at the thought of having to engage a person in conversation? Speaking publicly? Or even picking up a telephone call in the presence of persons you may or may not be familiar with? Where your answer is yes, it is indisputably obvious that you suffer from shyness. It may, however, be indicative of a deeper issue, one whose diagnosis, many go their whole lives being unaware of.

Social Anxiety Disorder, which is aptly described with the acronym SAD, goes beyond mere shyness, or an unwillingness to participate in groups or social gatherings.

It is a debilitating feeling of inadequacy and unfair evaluation by others, which may pose a crippling and longlasting effect on the life of its sufferer. In distinguishing it from its lesser counterpart- shyness, persons suffering from SAD are known to anticipate and over analyse expectant social situations weeks prior to the said event. When placed in context can amount to analysing every single bodily movement, utterance, eye contact and likely observations to be made in a social gathering.

While this may be seen as merely choosing to make the right impression or being efficient, the ugliness of the disease is made apparent where the anticipated social interaction or any interaction thereafter is avoided, simply for fear of being ridiculed.

Causes
Pinning an exact cause of the disorder may prove to be difficult with persons experiencing distinct situations. There is, however, a higher risk of experiencing SAD where children are subjected to cruel and demeaning experiences growing up. It could also arise where a people’s genetic makeup exposes them to a higher risk of developing anxiety disorders.
The brain has a Seratonin imbalance or an overactive Amygdala – the chemical in the brain in control of moods and the structure of the brain in control of fear and anxiety respectively.

However, a person subjected to any of the following has a higher chance of developing Social Anxiety Disorder:
• Adverse experiences: as seen where a child is subjected to bullying, humiliation, abuse or where a child experiences family conflict or being raised by overly protective parents.
• Family trait: a child may model his anxiety after that of his parents, siblings or another family member who also suffers from the condition.
• Disposition: children who are timid or shy are at a higher risk of developing the ailment as time progresses.
• Challenging work demands: where a person is required to give presentations for the first time or is ladened with high expectations for his input at work, he may begin to display symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder.
• Physical deformities or conditions that garner attention: facial disfigurement arising from acid attacks, accidents etc or conditions that elicit attention, such as a hunchback, walking with a gait, stuttering may lead its sufferer to lead a reclusive life, fearful of social interactions and mockery.

Symptoms
Behavioural
• For children, there is an inordinate fear of being embarrassed in the presence of their peers, without necessarily paying the same mind to adults.
• In adults, there is a grave fear of being criticised or teased.
• A fear that their anxiety at being in the social situation will be pointed out.
• Excessive worry about embarrassment or disgrace.
• Avoiding situations in which they may be the centre of attention.
• An intense fear of interacting or being left alone with strangers.
• Panic attacks.

Physical
• Children may cry, throw temper tantrums or simply keep mute
• Heart palpitations
• Cold/clammy hands
• Upset stomach
• Trembling
• Difficulty speaking

The implications of these symptoms may be so far-reaching, that the sufferer may choose to avoid social interactions entirely or may be so despondent at social gatherings, their well-intentioned attempts at socialising are defeated. It could also lead to low self-esteem and in extreme cases, suicide.

Diagnosis and Treatment
The diagnosis of Social Anxiety Disorder is to be made by a medical practitioner who may examine the symptoms exhibited, together with behavioural patterns to determine if an individual suffers from social phobia.

Children as young as 13 may be diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder. Its prevalence is equal in men and women, with as many as 36% of the American people suffering from SAD going undiagnosed for up to 10 years before seeking help.

In Nigeria, there is next to no information on this disorder, despite its hold as one of the most common anxiety disorders, a position which can be remedied by an increased awareness on mental health.

To treat the disorder, the following measures may be adopted:
• Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: in which negative thought patterns are managed by examining behaviours and thought processes.
• Self-help: by listening to recordings that are calming and educative on combating anxiety. Using breathing techniques to manage anxiety are also advisable.
• Medicine: taking prescribed medication to remedy anxiety such as antidepressants and Benzodiapines can prove to be invaluable in managing anxiety.

While Social Anxiety Disorder may be an imposing and all-consuming ailment, it need not translate into a life sentence of anxiety and social avoidance, as it is treatable and manageable provided the right diagnosis and treatment are given.

Photo Credit: Sdeva | Dreamstime

I'm Elizabeth Plumptre,  a health and wellness enthusiast, with an uncanny love for murder-mystery books. I specialise in daydreaming and when I'm not doing that, I'm creating marketing content for companies in need. Find out more about me and my work by visiting http://bethplumptre.com

9 Comments

  1. Muna

    September 22, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    As someone with severe SAD, I was excited to read this. People dont get it, I havent gone for a wedding or an even t in 3 long years. When i do, i find an excuse and escape. Thanks for the article but it’s inadequate if it just skims the surface, what exactly does someone with SAD do to get better especially here? This article could have gone better than just an intro. x

  2. OMOH

    September 22, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    Thank you for this insightful article…. now I know why I find it difficult to make meaningful conversation, there were times I considered myself as not smart and other times I think something is wrong with my brain formation.

  3. Ecstasy

    September 22, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    I suffered from this, stemmed from my childhood. Having been told i wasn’t pretty… i looked like a monkey…basically intense teasing from family and class mates in school made me a recluse but i knew there was the talkative showoffish smart girl hiding behind the cloak of shyness. Decided to invest my free time in reading, i read almost everything from self help books,history books to fictional ones, became an audiophile, made my shyness into being reserved… and suddenly i had something to talk about, i can have a conversation with just about anybody and we’d have something to talk about. This built up my confidence, i pushed myself to take on presentation assignments in school… i’m not there yet as i still have issues in my romantic relationships but its a work in progress.

  4. Ecstasy

    September 22, 2017 at 9:51 pm

    Everyone is smart. Find what interests you,can seem mudane, but actively know stuffs about your interests,have your facts right,go into the world and rub it in people’s face

  5. Aye'bba Jatau

    September 22, 2017 at 10:21 pm

    thank you so much much this is so insightful. I had always thought that something was wrong with me. I hardly attend any social function. worse of it is that most times I plan for the the function or occasion prepare my outfit and even fatancise but always have a good reason not to attend. i find it very difficult to keep a conversation in recent times I began to think that am not smart enough. I wish this write-up could be more detailed

  6. legend

    September 23, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    I have had social anxiety since I was in secondary school.I just couldn’t understand what was happening to me.from a bubbly child to one that was negatively self conscious was scared of a lot of things.talking to people was so difficult would stutter plus I had a nervous tic which made it worse and which I thought people could notice.my tic was if someone was looking at me my neck would quickly shake.it was so embarrassing.before I got a phone and internet assess I would dread going anywhere be it church,school. I started to Google exactly how I felt and my symptoms and I saw SOCIAL ANXIETY.such relief I felt at least I was not crazy I saw that a lot of people abroad had it.the first time I had a boyfriend I would sit with him in class and sometimes he would watch me as I write and I would literally begin shaking.my brain would go into overdrive I would wonder How was I looking,did he notice I was uncomfortable.I would be so scared of walking into class or out.it was Horrible felt so self conscious felt people were laughing at me or thinking I was not normal.

  7. legend

    September 23, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    I found it difficult making friends cos i dint know how to.i was awkward.i felt inadequate and i still do sometimes and obviously dor no reason cos i am gorgeous if i do say so myself.i would look at the mirror long hours trying to know what was wrong with me,how did i look when people looked at me.identity crisis was now thrown into the mix.i would pray begging God to take this burden away completely which i believe he reduced a bit.before it reduced i almost hated God.i would ask google why does God allow social anxiety.i had 2 abortions cause of low self esteem stemming from social anxiety(not making any excused though)i graduated with a very low 2.2 cause of my priorities were nonexistent plus the confusion and debilitating effects of social anxiety.

  8. legend

    September 23, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    Currently i went through the Nigerian law school came out once and with a good result and serving in abuja.is it Possible to get married with this disorder????.turning 24 in a weeks time with some suitors which im rejecting cause i dont want to be a burden to any man.Also how does one work in an office and practice law of be successful in general with this disorder?are there any drugs you guys can recommend?would [email protected] muna and omoh ,ecstacy,jatau we are not alone afterall.

  9. Simply_Seun

    September 23, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    I have struggled with this ailment for most part of my life. my social/relationship life is next to nothing. and the worst part is that, people think i fake it all the time. its quiet a depressing situation, and only the strong willed can pull through. i have never been in a relationship because of this, my vocal cords also fail me alot. SAD is killing!. i only utilise the power of music, and hiding behind a chat to pull through this ordeal. if you guys know of any association that help in this situation, kindly forward it through my email: [email protected] or 07033161246. Thanks

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