Most of us experience butterflies in our stomachs before giving an important speech. We may feel jittery and anxious prior to a job interview. But for individuals suffering from social anxiety disorder, social situations of almost any kind can invoke terror, intense physical symptoms and a constriction of their daily activities. Specifically, social anxiety is “an excessive and persistent fear of social or performance situations.” People with social anxiety dread situations that include other people, like dating, being called on in class, meeting new people, or having to talk in public. Some folks avoid using public bathrooms, ordering food from a restaurant, even talking to a customer service representative on the phone. Sufferers of social anxiety may experience physical symptoms like blushing, sweating, shaking or trembling, muscle tension, pounding heart, and dry mouth. Because of their fears, people with social anxiety may isolate or avoid situations that may require them to interact with others. They may experience a decrease in their self esteem due to judging their reactions or feeling “flawed” for not being able to accomplish life tasks that others seem to do easily.

Treatment Options for Social Anxiety Disorder

The third most common psychiatric condition in the United States, social anxiety disorder occurs in 1 out of 8 adults. Both children and adults can struggle with social anxiety, and sufferers are equally distributed between men and women. The good news is that treatment is available and clinically proven to be successful. Data supports that a combination of medications and talk therapy provide the best treatment outcome for people with social anxiety disorder. Counseling that includes cognitive-behavioral therapy and social skills training have been proven especially helpful. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps individuals understand and change thoughts and behaviors that contribute to their anxiety. Social skills training gives people the opportunity to learn and practice responses and skills they will need in social situations within the safety of the therapy room. If your anxiety or worry about social interactions is limiting your life or negatively impacting your daily activities or self-perception, talk with your doctor or get a referral to a counselor. Everyone deserves to fully engage in life and to reap the benefits of relationships, work and social interactions without the burden of anxiety and worry. Treatment can pull back the curtain of social anxiety and allow individuals to step onto the stage of life with more confidence.