Did you know that social anxiety disorder is the second most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorder in the United States? It affects approximately 15 million adults and is characterized by intense fear, anxiety, and worry about being judged negatively and/or rejected by others. There are various situations that might elicit social anxiety, including interacting with strangers, talking to an authority figure, public speaking, talking to someone who you are attracted to, and interacting with a small group of people.
For some people, social anxiety is specific to certain types of situations and not elicited in others. For example, an individual may fear public speaking, but not experience other social situations as anxiety provoking.
Given the ubiquity of social interactions in daily life, social anxiety disorder can have a serious negative impact on an individual’s quality of life and functioning. It has also been shown to increase the likelihood of developing other psychological issues, most notably depression. While we all have experienced some degree of social anxiety at some point in our lives, social anxiety disorder is differentiated by the intensity of the distress, which often can lead to a pattern of avoidance. It’s not uncommon for individuals with social anxiety disorder to avoid potentially rewarding experiences (e.g., job opportunities, friends, dating). Avoidance of feared social situation(s) may seem like an effective way to manage anxiety and related physical symptoms, yet this actually makes things worse. Avoidance maintains the fear.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been scientifically shown to be the most effective treatment for social anxiety disorder, regardless of whether it is delivered in Individual and/or group therapeutic setting. CBT for social anxiety disorder is premised on the idea that deliberate encounters with the feared situations, or exposure, leads to a reduction in fear over time. If you or someone you know is suffering from social anxiety disorder, there is help!
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