Social anxiety disorder (2)

Have you ever felt nervous at the prospect of giving a presentation at school or work? Your hands sweat and you know if you don't have them firmly planted somewhere they will give a telltale tremble, your face is warming and you feel like there might be a bit of a wobble in your voice.

Some nervousness in the face of public scrutiny is a pretty normal part of most people's lives, but there are some whose fears in social situations overshadow everything else and become crippling.

These individuals have social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety is the most common anxiety disorder affecting almost four percent of the population in a given year and it is characterized by overwhelming anxiety and fear of evaluation, criticism and disapproval that may occur in normal social situations.

People experiencing social anxiety disorder dread speaking in public, going to parties or being the centre of attention for any reason. They do not like to ask or answer questions in groups, enter rooms where others are sitting, be watched working, disagree with others or have interpersonal confrontations.

Other situations that can be difficult for those with social anxiety include eating in restaurants, using public washrooms or signing something while someone watches.

Social games such as charades that involve being the centre of attention are terrifying as is attending a public performance where people are taken up onto the stage from the audience. These possibilities would be enough to make a person with social anxiety disorder avoid any situation where something like this might occur.

Some individuals with this condition also have a problem with blushing in social situations, which makes them very self-conscious. Being teased or having the blushing pointed out to them only makes matters worse for these people.

Unfortunately, the intense anxiety surrounding these situations can cause problems in school and work settings and can also hinder the ability to form and maintain relationships.

I have seen many people who have dropped out of school simply to avoid having to make classroom presentations. Applying for work can also be terrifying and many remain unemployed because they cannot face the idea of applying for a job.

While some individuals with social anxiety disorder fear only a limited number of situations, others have a wide range of fears that limit their lives in a variety of ways. Even though many recognize that their fears are excessive or unreasonable, they are unable to get past them.

Symptoms of social anxiety typically begin early in life and rarely start after the age of 25. They are about twice as common in women as in men although men are more likely to seek help for their social anxiety than women.

Although an exact cause for social anxiety is not clearly understood, research points to genetic, biochemical and environmental factors that can all play a role in the development of this condition.

Fortunately, treatments are available for this upsetting disorder and usually involve a combination of cognitive behaviour therapy and medication. Unfortunately, many people with social anxiety do not seek treatment because they are fearful of authority figures such as teachers, supervisors or doctors. This makes it very difficult for them to ask for help. In many cases, the support and help of trusted family or friends is needed.

At Okanagan Clinical Trials, we specialize in the treatment of this and other anxiety disorders. We are also involved in studies to develop additional effective treatments. We currently have several ongoing studies with anxiety disorders. If you would like more information, please contact our office.


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