Dr. Richard Heimberg: Hi! I am Dr. Richard Heimberg, Director of the Adult Anxiety Clinic of Temple University and a member of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, which is partnering with the Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety.
Today I am talking about social anxiety disorder experienced by about 15 million American adults. This disorder is characterized by an intense fear of being negatively judged by others. We all have this fear to some degree, but those suffering from social anxiety disorder are often unable to push past it causing them to avoid the situations in their lives that trigger these feelings. Symptoms may also be so extreme that they disrupt daily life. Adults with social anxiety disorder often feel lonely and ashamed. They may have few or no social or romantic relationships. These are common signs of social anxiety disorder; fear of being noticeably nervous, obsessive worrying and anticipatory anxiety over social interactions and performance situations, over dependence on technology for the purpose of avoiding face to face interaction, over dependence on prescription or recreational drugs or alcohol to function in social situations.
Problems in conversation or the fear of not knowing what to say, this intense fear and worrying can manifest itself with physical symptoms such as blushing, increased heart rate, shaking or tremors, dizziness or feeling faint and shortness of breath.
Situations that often trigger reactions involve interactions with other people where the possibility of being the focus of others attention, such as speaking in public, eating or writing in public, meeting new people and making friends, dating and romantic relationships or social encounters with strangers.
The disorder can be selective, some people may have an intense fear of talking to a sales person or giving a speech, but they may be comfortable ordering in a restaurant or in other situations. Others may become anxious during routine activity such as starting a conversation with a stranger or a person in authority, speaking up in meetings or classes, dating or attending parties.
Social anxiety disorder rarely travels alone. People may have more than one anxiety disorder as well as depression. Seek the help of a qualified health professional if you feel your anxieties are disrupting your daily life.
Organizations like the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and the Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety can help you learn more about this disorder and how to find help.