It’s your first day at a new job, maybe you’re nervous or jittery, you want to make a good impression, those feelings are pretty normal and they may actually help you be more alert and careful but after a few weeks once you’re used to the job and you know your coworkers, that nervousness usually diminishes right, well for some people that initial anxiety is really high and it stays really high over time, for those people, the fear of being judged negatively by new people might be so daunting that it affects their ability to do their job well in fact even the idea of having to be somewhere where they may be scrutinized by others might make them not want to do the job in the first place, this describes social anxiety disorder. It’s unclear what causes social anxiety disorder but it’s thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors like having a close relative with social anxiety disorder or being exposed to neglect and abuse, the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders or dsm-5 defines social anxiety disorder as causing individuals to fear acting in a certain way that might make them get judged and it can cause anxiety that interferes with their normal routine as well as their relationships and what’s more is the fear of anxiety is persistent lasting for six or more months. Usually social anxiety disorder causes distress for individuals in specific social situations or circumstances, for example one person might get really anxious when making small talk with acquaintances or meeting new people whereas another person might get performance anxiety and not feel able to give a presentation or give a toast at friend’s wedding.
Social anxiety disorder is an ego-dystonic condition meaning the people who have the disorder usually understand that their anxiety is unwarranted but unfortunately that awareness can cause more anxiety because they’ll fear that others can tell how anxious they are, sometimes individuals might worry that they may be having physical symptoms like trembling or blushing that others may notice and judge them for, sometimes the anxiety can get so severe that it causes something called derealization, meaning that a person might feel spaced out and maybe less able to recognize their surroundings, in order to reduce their social inhibitions, some people with social anxiety use drugs and alcohol and that can lead to dependency in addiction, the dsm-5 states that in order to make a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder, the fear or avoidance shouldn’t be due to the effects of a medication or due to another condition and that’s important because there are key features of social anxiety disorder that overlap with other conditions. For example, in generalized anxiety disorder, individuals have anxiety but it’s not limited to being judged in a social context, the anxiety is usually broader and includes non social concerns like finances or physical safety, another example is agoraphobia where people avoid public places for fear of being trapped and not being able to escape just in case something embarrassing happens or if they begin to panic but in agoraphobia, the fear is less about being judged and more about being trapped in a crowd and not able to escape. Treatment usually involves psychotherapy medication or a combination of the two, if it’s psychotherapy cognitive behavioral therapy is recommended since it teaches a person new ways of thinking and behaviors to help them in being around others.