What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social Anxiety Disorder (known as SAD, but not to be confused with Seasonal Affective Disorder) is an anxiety disorder that results in extreme shyness. It affects both men and women equally, and in its severe forms can result in an inability to work or live a normal life.

While many people are shy and find it difficult to be around new people, those with Social Anxiety Disorder suffer more than would be considered normal. They may go out of their way to avoid social situations, often to their detriment, and will experience physical symptoms of fear – such as shaking – in a social environment. They may also blush more frequently, and can sometimes be so nervous of being around people they are physically sick.

SAD is a relatively newly recognized anxiety disorder. Before its clinical recognition, sufferers may have simply been referred to as suffering from “nerves” or just being shy. The disorder is still in its early phases of clinical testing, but responses have been seen with usual anti-anxiety medication and behavioral therapy. While the illness can be overcome with correct psychiatric and psychological treatment, it can never be definitively cured. This, however, is not unique to SAD – no anxiety disorder can be cured, as such.

There is no known cause for SAD, though some sufferers do show lower than normal levels of serotonin (the so-called ‘feel good’ hormone) when tested. Due to its somewhat ambiguous nature, SAD can go undiagnosed for years – sometimes decades – before medical recognition. A primary reason for this is that those with SAD naturally avoid visiting a doctor, due to their condition – a catch 22 situation which will hopefully dissipate as awareness rises.

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