Social anxiety disorder doesn’t get as much attention as other mental health problems. Almost everyone is acquainted, on some level, with depression. Anxiety, in the form of panic attacks and similar problems, is also fairly well known. Social anxiety disorder, despite being the third most common mental health problem facing Americans, however, still is not well understood by most people.

Social anxiety disorder takes many forms. It can be described as an inappropriately elevated sense of self-consciousness. In some people, social anxiety appears in their constant worries that others are watching them critically. In others, it can lead to situations where they simply refuse to engage in any social interaction. Social anxiety disorder, in its less severe forms can be very frustrating and can significantly diminish the quality of one’s life. In its more extreme forms, the disorder can be almost totally debilitating, rendering a person completely unable to interact with others.

There is not cure for social anxiety disorder. And, unlike the better-known problems of depression and panic disorders, no medications have been developed that show a significant ability to combat the problem. Those who are diagnosed with depression or who suffer with panic attacks may be able to mitigate symptoms with prescription medications, but the individual with social anxiety disorder has to rely on other treatment modalities.

The only form of treatment that has been shown to produce any real substantive change among those with a social anxiety disorder is therapy based on a cognitive model. By increasing awareness, learning coping skills, and retraining thought patterns it is possible for someone saddled with this problem to improve his or her condition markedly over time. Research indicates that many sufferers begin to notice a significant improvement in their condition after a few dozen visits to a behavior therapist. Often, group therapy is eventually included as part of the treatment regimen.

It should be noted that not everyone who worries what others think about him or her has an anxiety disorder. The problem arises when those concerns become too powerful and prevent the individual from engaging in otherwise desired interactions. It is absolutely normal to have a bit of concern about what others might think of your new haircut. It is not, on the other hand, normal to allow your mind to be overwhelmingly preoccupied with that consideration or to let your worries interfere with your ability to function in an appropriate manner.

If you experience significant discomfort, lumps in your throat, fear, or disproportionate worry about social interactions, you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder and should seek the advice of a medical professional. The problem is treatable with cognitive therapy and it is possible to live a life that is not filled with the irrational non-stop worries and inability to interact that are hallmarks of social anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorder

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