3 Types of Symptoms specific to Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety (or social phobia) is a disorder that equally occurs in men and women and in general starts during childhood or adolescence. Also known as social phobia, the illness is related to the individual’s constant fear to get in touch with other people than his family members and to face various social situations such as speaking in public, being evaluated, or criticized.
Symptoms detected in patients with social anxiety
The symptoms of social anxiety can be divided into:
- physical symptoms
- emotional symptoms
- behavioral symptoms
- Physical symptoms
- Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)
The sweat in excess (on face, forehead, palms, or underarms) is pretty embarrassing because not only stains the clothes, but it complicates in a disagreeable way the social interactions. This problem keeps your energy and attention from focusing on your task.
- Muscle tension
A steady tension felt in the jaw, fists, or all through the body’s muscular system, is a sign that accompanies anxiety in many people.
- Digestive issues
Anxiety creates discomfort in the digestive system that often leads to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This condition causes constipation or diarrhea, stomach pains, bloating, and abdominal cramps.
- Shaky hands or shaky voice
Tachycardia is characterized by abnormally fast heartbeat. Anxiety commonly triggers sinus tachycardia, related to an overactive fight or flight response (the way our body responds to dangers: to defend either to run) which determines the racing heart sensation.
- Rapid breathing
During anxious situations, some people have the tendency to breathe faster than normally. This leads to hyperventilation, when you expel an increased amount of carbon dioxide and take back more oxygen than is necessary.
Hyperventilation provoked by stress and anxiety may worsen in time and turn into a syndrome itself.
- Chest pains
Chest pains activated by fear differ from those caused by a heart attack.
Chest pains typical to an anxiety attack:
- usually appear in an area located over the heart closer to the middle of the chest
- are sharp
- last a few minutes
- are accompanied by breathing difficulties and vertigo
Chest pains related to heart:
- are spreading all around the shoulder, neck, or arms
- last about 10 minutes or even more
- are not very intense
- go away and come back
- cause an uncomfortable pressure
- Temper tantrum
This symptom mainly appears in children who are prone to cry and cling to their parents.
- Emotional symptoms
- Extreme worry
Worrying days and weeks in advance for attending an event where more people will be, makes you nervous, distracted from the daily schedule, and exhausted.
- Excessive self-consciousness
Self-consciousness occurs when you are observed or judged by the people around you, especially by those you are not familiar with. This state impairs your capability to perform actions as you could normally be able to.
- Having difficulties making friends
Having problems making new friends and keeping the old ones disrupts your self-confidence and ruins possible relationships. Although you really want to talk to them and enjoy their presence, you have a hard time acting properly.
- Stage fright
Stage fright is connected to the fear of being in the center of attention (public speaking, for example). Feeling some butterflies in your stomach before performing in the front of an audience is something normal, but being excessively concerned a long time ahead about how the things will go on and what others will think is a form of social anxiety.
- Sleep disturbances
Chronic sleep problems such as falling asleep with difficulty or staying asleep are quite common in patients with social anxiety. On the other hand, waking up with an acute feeling of racing thoughts and agitation that you cannot keep under control, also is a sign that anxiety might be the reason.
Flashbacks about a traumatic event are considered a distinctive characteristic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Medical studies like the one published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders in 2006, disclosed the fact that people suffering from social anxiety have flashbacks similar to PTSD, related to moments when they have been publicly ridiculed or criticized.
- Expecting for catastrophic consequences
A negative experience happened during a social situation is expected to activate the worst consequences. This dangerous point of view limits the individual’s desire to stay and interact with people he/she does not know.
- Behavioral symptoms
- Perfectionist attitude
Persons dealing with social phobia tend to put too much focus on doing things perfectly and avoiding any little tiny mistake. They care so much about the others’ opinion and expect to be awarded accordingly. A perfectionist attitude leads to a constant self-judging and fear of failing.
- The need to resort to “soothing” alternatives
Drinking alcohol, taking antidepressants, or consuming drugs represent soothing alternatives for anxious people to better coping with social activities. This behavior is quite dangerous because it can easily degenerate into addiction.
- Bringing a friend next to you
The presence of a close friend looks to be the ultimate solution for facing the challenge of being exposed to strangers.
- Hiding and keeping quiet
- Frequent avoidance of social situations
The avoidance of social situations reaches a level that perturbs both the person’s social and professional life.
- Analyzing the flaws of a social interaction
A persistent analyze of the possible (real or hypothetical) flaws of your performance a long time after the event had ended, induces the fear of having a new social experience and creates the premises for feeling anxious.
- Making confusion between shyness and social anxiety
Many people with social anxiety like to think that their behavior is linked to shyness. The point is that shy persons might not feel very comfortable around others, but they do not experience the particular symptoms of social anxiety and generally do not show an exaggerate degree of avoidance for social situations.
Although a lot of persons, who deal with social phobia, have the feeling that something goes wrong they often fail to admit that this could be the sign of a disorder. Everyone definitely goes through anxious moments from time to time, but when the “normal” anxiety crosses the line, the best approach is to talk to your doctor.