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How does social anxiety disorder differ from other anxiety disorders and what are the methods of treatment?

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It’s normal to get nervous before giving a speech or presentation, and many people find it a little stressful to walk into an event or class full of people you don’t know. However, when you have a social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, you’re terrified. You might even skip a class or social event because you’re so self-conscious and afraid of being judged by others. People with social anxiety disorder feel an overwhelming anxiety in social situations, whether that’s in class, work or at a party and this anxiety interferes with their day-to-day life. Fortunately, this disorder can be successfully treated, and you can start to enjoy social situations.

Signs & Symptoms

If you suffer from social anxiety disorder, you constantly fear being evaluated by others, and embarrassing yourself. You get excessively anxious when interacting with strangers, getting called on in class, eating in public or standing in line at the grocery store.

Both psychological and physical symptoms characterize this disorder, including:

• Intense anxiety before and during social situations
• Difficulty with daily, ordinary experiences like starting a conversation, calling someone or going to class
• Avoiding social situations
• Getting easily embarrassed
• Blushing
• Sweating
• A tough time talking
• Shaking
• Heart racing
• Feeling faint

Causes

As with other mental health conditions, social phobia involves a variety of contributing factors. Scientists believe that individuals with social anxiety disorder might be sensitive to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that controls mood and emotions. Also, they may have an exaggerated fear response, because their amygdala — which regulates the fear response in your brain — is overactive.

People have a greater chance of developing the disorder if it runs in their families. The environment can also play a role. For example, individuals could have faced embarrassing or stressful social situations at a young age that create ongoing anxiety. Being bullied, experiencing a traumatic event or being shy can all make you more prone to social anxiety disorder.

People are often afraid to speak up and let others know about their anxiety. But it’s important to reach out for help because the condition is treatable and you can feel better. Learn more about dealing with social anxiety disorder.