Do you find that you avoid social situations because of anxiety? Do you excessively worry about what others think or how they view you? Does your fear of social interactions get in the way of you being able to live your life? Perhaps you worry about being judged by others, criticized, or fear not being accepted. Have you experienced some of the physical symptoms related to social events such as trembling, blushing, and sweating? Maybe you have even had the very scary experience of a panic attack which feels like you are dying.
Are You SAD?
If you answer yes to most of these questions chances are you may be suffering with social phobia or what is clinically known as Social Anxiety Disorder, or what I call SAD. All people experience fear and worry related to social situations. The difference is that those who suffer from SAD will experience intense feelings of fear that interfere with their ability to function in everyday life.
Living With SAD!
These intense feelings of fear often lead to avoidance of people or social situations. The avoidance is to minimize the fear but it also results in isolation and disconnection. This can result in secondary problems such as depression. It can also negatively affect one’s self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. Becoming stuck in a very vicious pattern of fear, avoidance, isolation, depression, and shame is common for those who struggle with SAD. The more shame one feels will often lead to increased feelings of worthlessness which, in turn, increases fear of not being accepted, and results in even more avoidance.
Causes of SAD!
Researchers are studying the causes of social anxiety and there are different opinions on what truly causes it. There appears to be a genetic link. In other words, if you have a family member who deals with anxiety you may be at higher risk to also suffering from anxiety. In counseling those with SAD over the years I have observed that most people struggling with this type of anxiety have attachment related fears. They often worry if they are good enough, valuable, and ultimately struggle to feel loved and accepted by others. There is fear that if others were to truly “see” them or “know” them they would be rejected. The fears of abandonment and rejection are universal, however, they are intensified in those struggling with SAD.
There is hope for those struggling with SAD. Anxiety counseling can help you to identify positive ways you can learn to cope. Anxiety counseling will often focus on identifying the negative thoughts and beliefs you may holding inside. It can help you to identify traumatic experiences that may be a contributing factor to your anxiety. Through working with an anxiety therapist you will also learn assertiveness, relaxation techniques, acceptance of your reactions and self and learn better ways to manage your fear.