Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is a mental health disorder that – to put it simply – impacts the quality of a person’s life in social situations.
Sure, “Some of us feel some nervousness in social situations, don’t we?” you may be thinking.
But the difference between feeling some nervousness in social encounters and having a diagnosis of SAD is a big difference. In her book, “Thriving with Social Anxiety,” author Hattie C. Cooper explains the dimensions of having SAD. She cites the Diagnostic and Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which notes the following characteristics of SAD:
• Social situations almost always provoke fear or anxiety
• The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting for 6 months or more.
• The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is not attributable to the physiological effects of substance abuse or other medical condition.
These are, of course, not all of the symptoms associated with SAD, but they remain important nevertheless.
And, again as cited by Cooper, an estimated 40 million adult Americans suffer from some type of anxiety disorder. “Within this number,” writes Cooper, “about 15 million suffer specifically from SAD, revealing that the condition is widespread and relatively common.”
There are many ways to treat SAD. And although none of these ways may be a “magic bullet,” it may be best to consult with a medical professional to find out what treatment options may be best for you if you receive a SAD diagnosis.
“Over time, you’ll likely discover that a combination of strategies works best for you,” writes Cooper, “bearing in mind that this will be a process of testing different strategies and learning in what ways they helped, or did not help.”
Some of the common strategies are for coping with SAD are:
• Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
• Mindfulness Training
• Exposure Therapy
• Meditation and Breathing Exercises
Job interviews, dating, going to a concert, or other social events can trigger symptoms of SAD for those who have been diagnosed by a medical professional. Moreover, as noted by Cooper, anxiety disorders and depression tend to run in families. “While research has yet to identify a specific ‘anxiety’ gene that passes the condition from one generation to the next, observational studies have shown that anxiety disorders run in families.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of SAD, seek medical assistance with a certified professional. Do not self-diagnose. Finally, because SAD impacts so many Americans, it remains important to take the condition seriously.
Cooper H. C. (2014). Thriving with social anxiety. Fall River Press, New York, NY.