Also referred to as social phobia, social anxiety disorder is a psychological condition that is associated with the constant fear of surrounding social conditions (Ledley & Heimberg, 2005). It may also be regarded as extreme discomfort experienced by an individual because of fear. People who suffer from social anxiety disorder are often concerned about what their actions or expressions in the presence of other people may lead to.
According to Turk, Heimberg, and Magee (2008), social anxiety disorder can impact individuals negatively in various aspects of their lives, including career, academics, and general social functioning. As noted by Smith and Jaffe-Gill (2014), social anxiety disorder involves more than being shy or occasionally afraid. Ordinarily, people who suffer from social anxiety disorder are often concerned about being embarrassed or humiliated.
Even though social anxiety disorder starts from the early days of a person’s life, many people do not ask for treatment until something serious happens. This is further aggravated by the allegation that most medical practitioners are not well equipped with requisite skills for detecting social anxiety disorder in patients.
In the study by Turk, Heimberg, and Magee (2008), people who suffer from a social anxiety disorder often make attempts to guess the standards they may be judged with by a particular audience in any given situation. How people with social anxiety disorder behave in such cases is thus determined by the characteristics of the audience before them. Because of their mental perception, persons with a social anxiety disorder are likely to feel inferior.
Causes of Social Anxiety Disorder
To a certain extent, what leads to social anxiety disorder is not quite obvious. This notwithstanding, research studies indicate that causes of social anxiety disorder are varied and may be due to environmental factors or genetic inheritance (Turk, Heimberg & Magee, 2008). To a large extent, genetic causes of social anxiety disorder are experienced in families since genes are inherited from one generation to another.
Research findings also indicate that the structure of the brain can have a serious impact on the normal functioning of a human being and as a result, lead to social anxiety disorder. Studies also indicate that weather, as well as demographics, can cause social anxiety disorder in people. Chemicals that are injected into a person’s body from time to time can also cause social anxiety disorder problems in people.
A social anxiety disorder may also be caused by nasty experiences in life during the early stages of a person’s growth (MFMER, 2014). Such experiences include being ridiculed or suffering humiliation. Other causes include conflicts in the family or incidences of sexual abuse. Certainly, the way parents treat their children as they grow has a serious impact on their future lives and may be the cause of social anxiety disorder if not dealt with in good time.
Parents must, therefore, take it upon themselves to ensure that children are brought up in a healthy environment. If children have to spend time with people who are not part of the family, it is important for parents to ensure that the character of such people is well known.
Similarly, the school environment should be conducive enough for children to have a healthy life experience. Cases of bullying or ridicule among children at school are unhealthy and often lead to social anxiety disorder.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder
The fact that a person gets fearful once in a while does necessarily imply that he or she suffers from a social anxiety disorder. It is common for everyone to be shy or afraid of time and again (Smith & Jaffe-Gill, 2014). Among small children, a social anxiety disorder may be associated with too much crying, throwing tantrums or shying away from public exposure.
In teens and grow up individuals, signs of a social anxiety disorder include fear of participating in social activities such as starting a conversation, engaging authority figures in discussions, or generally, hanging out with other people in social events.
Teens and adults with social anxiety disorders also tend to have low self-esteem and are often insecure in relationships. Also, they hate criticism and avoid eye contact when conversing with others. In some extreme situations, victims turn to drugs or alcohol in order to lower the level of anxiety.
According to MFMER (2014), the symptoms of social anxiety disorder may be classified into two major categories. While some signs are associated with emotional and behavioral social anxiety disorder, others are an indication of physical, a social anxiety disorder.
Signs and symptoms of emotional and behavioral social anxiety disorder entail being afraid to interact with strange people as well as being fearful of situations that may involve the victim being judged by others. Other signs in this category include being scared of degrading oneself or fear of being seen to be nervous. Among others, symptoms of a physical, social anxiety disorder include trembling, nausea, the tension in the muscles, sweating, and confusion.
Social Anxiety Disorder and Development
In general, not much is know about the effects of social anxiety disorder on a person’s development (Heerey & Kring, 2007). While most people who are not anxious consider interactions with those who are anxious as odd, the ability of people with a social anxiety disorder to develop normally is seriously affected by the challenges they face daily.
In general, the effective development of an individual is linked to so many other factors. To achieve balanced growth, it is imperative to ensure that all factors are given equal consideration.
As has explained earlier, social anxiety disorder is associated with the fear of being humiliated or embarrassed. For this reason, people with social anxiety disorder tend to be exceptionally careful when speaking to others in social forums. While this behavior may convince them that they are safe at that particular moment, it denies them a golden opportunity to explore their God-given talents and excel.
According to Heerey and Kring (2007), feelings of anxiety are as a result of self-presentational concerns, which include the assumption that a person may be evaluated negatively by his or her audience. This is worsened by visible signs of anxiety in a person such as sweating or shaking. The concerns result in increased self-focus, which later predicts a person’s anxiety and affects his or her interactions with other people.
Social Anxiety Disorder and Personality
Considering the various challenges that people with a social anxiety disorder are subjected to, they are likely to grow up with an impaired personality. When caught up in social environments, individuals with social anxiety disorder tend to take actions that guarantee them safety (Heerey & Kring, 2007). Generally, these are behaviors that an individual engages in to stay safe from perceived danger or an uncomfortable situation.
Unfortunately, such behaviors greatly interfere with their personality as they grow. For example, a person who is afraid of a crowd may speak quite fast to finish what he or she has to say to the audience and return to his or her comfort zone. While this may create a false impression of security for an individual with social anxiety disorder, it is equally responsible for his or her inability to communicate effectively with the audience.
In general, speaking fast causes the speaker to leave out important details in his or her communication, and this may lead to a serious communication breakdown. While the person communicating will not be able to effectively pass on his or her message, the audience may be unable to understand what is said to them. Such survival mechanisms are destructive and lead to time wastage.
As has been discussed in this paper, social anxiety disorder is a major concern, and those affected must look for the earliest opportunity to get the necessary help. Rather than depend on survival tactics to hide from visible challenges, individuals with social anxiety disorder should be encouraged to seek treatment and professional counsel on how best to deal with their conditions.
Efforts must also be made to address notable causes of social anxiety disorder right from childhood. Specifically, parents should do their best to ensure that children are presented with a healthy environment, whether at home or away.
It is also prudent for parents to avoid any behavior that may create fear and anxiety in children during their early days of development. Teachers and heads of academic institutions must also ensure that children, especially those in their formative years, learn in an environment that is devoid of any form of abuse.
Heerey, E. A. & Kring, A. M. (2007). Interpersonal Consequences of Social Anxiety. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 116 (1), 125 – 134. Web.
Ledley, D. R. & Heimberg, R. G. (2005). Social Anxiety Disorder. Web.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). (2014). Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia). Web.
Smith, M. & Jaffe-Gill, E. (2014). Social Anxiety Disorder & Social Phobia. Web.
Turk, C. L., Heimberg, R. G. & Magee, L. (2008). Social Anxiety Disorder. Web.