Social Anxiety Disorder
Do you Avoid People?
1. What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety is found in both men and women, they are very normal people, except when they have to Interact with another person outside their immediate family members. They can be colleagues, classmates, people living in the same apartment etc. The anxiety is both with members of the opposite sex and same sex. They form close relationships with very few people inside the family and outside the family also. They will take a very long time to form such relationships. Invariably the person with whom they form relationships would also be a little socially shy.
2. Do people develop this in childhood or as adults?
A person can acquire it as a child or develop it as an adult. Socially shy parents or parent may teach the child to avoid unnecessary interactions, which the child may follow in the initial years, and then it becomes their nature to avoid people. In case of adults it can happen when successive relationships result in disappointment, rejection, criticism or being exploited financially or sexually.
3. How does it affect the person’s life?
The sense of AVOIDANCE will be so high that they will not hesitate to resign their jobs if their job profile necessitates interacting with people, they will drop out of a relationship if the other person starts getting friendly with others. Even if the salary is lucrative they will refuse promotion and remain in a self-defined comfortable zone.
If one of the married partner has social anxiety then when the other person gets friendly even with a person of the same gender they can misinterpret it as loss of interest in marriage, or even as being unfaithful. This can lead to enormous strain in the relationship and if the other person has to avoid they have to stay away from all relationships which may be realistically possible in the initial years but after a few years it can start leading to enormous frustrations.
These people will avoid parties they will find a good excuse to stay out of it. If someone manages to motivate them to attend a social gathering they will be silent spectators during the event and then they will only be thinking of as to how to leave the place. So seeing their discomfort and silent participation people slowly stop inviting them for social gatherings.
4. What is the treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder?
It has to be treated with Medicines and Psychotherapy. Social anxiety manifests due to faulty thought processing, dysfunctional beliefs and consequent anxious physical reactions. This can be either secondary to a traumatic real life experience or totally imagined.
Cognitive Behaviour therapy is very effective in treating this disorder along with anxolytic medication. In this therapy we enable the person to identify the initial experience, which lead to the formation of thought processes leading to social anxiety.
We do not have epidemiological data to answer this question. My rough estimate would be about 8 to 10 per cent of people must be suffering from this. Due to cultural restrictions women are more vulnerable towards developing this condition.
6. What is the biggest hurdle involved in fighting Social Anxiety Disorder?
a) People do not consider this as a problem; they just learn to live with it. Only if it grossly disturbs their vocation or marital relationships they look for some kind of treatment.
b) Indians have a tendency to expect medicines or their birthstone to solve their problems. Instead if they put in efforts on physical and cognitive exercises they can easily overcome this embarrassing and paralysing disorder.
c) People with social anxiety disorder AVOID situations, consequently they live a very restricted life, which they find to be comfortable and compromise with many aspects of life