The American Psychiatric Association (APA) explains that, “anxiety refers to anticipation of a future concern and is more associated with muscle tension and avoidance behavior.” Anxiety disorders involve excessive feelings of nervousness, anxiousness, fear, and anxiety. Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also known as social phobia, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic mental health condition. An individual with SAD will avoid social situations due to a fear of being negatively evaluated (e.g., embarrassed or judged) by other people. An individual with social anxiety disorder will experience a stronger and more intense sense of anxiety surrounding uncomfortable social situations than someone without SAD. Social anxiety disorder is the second most diagnosed anxiety disorder, following specific phobia, affecting approximately 15 million American adults.
How Does It Manifest?
Anyone with social anxiety disorder can experience it in different ways. Some people with social anxiety disorder may only experience symptoms when faced with one or two situations (e.g., speaking in public or initiating a conversation) while others may present with pervasive, debilitating symptoms in any social situation. Although there is a plethora of situations that can be exceedingly difficult for those with social anxiety disorder, some of the most common include the following:
- Making eye contact
- Talking to strangers
- Speaking in public
- Initiating conversations
- Attending parties
- Entering rooms
- Eating in front of other people
- Using public restrooms
- Going to work or school
Symptoms of this disorder typically begin around age 13. The symptoms of social anxiety disorder can be so extreme that they disrupt daily life and can interfere significantly with daily routines, occupational performance, or social life. The exact cause for developing social anxiety disorder remains unknown. Research suggests that it is likely due to a combination of contributing factors such as psychological, environmental, genetic, and developmental factors. Despite the availability of effective treatments, data suggests that fewer than 5% of people of with social anxiety disorder pursue treatment in the year following initial onset and more than a third of people report symptoms for 10 or more years before getting help.
For Information and Support
Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.