Social Phobia

During the day, we enter many social environments such as the workplace, school or cafe. How would you feel if you were experiencing great anxiety every time you entered these social environments? If you were worried about how people were evaluating you during a presentation or performance appraisal, how would the presentation end? On top of all this, how would you feel if even going to the supermarket was becoming too difficult for you because you were afraid to interact with people? People with social anxiety disorder, formerly known as Social Phobia, may face such problems frequently.

What are the criteria for social anxiety disorder?

Social anxiety disorder according to DSM 5; persistent, marked, and disproportionate fear of exposure to the possibility of social evaluation, lasting at least 6 months; It includes intense anxiety that causes the person to develop thoughts that he or she will be negatively evaluated by being exposed to a triggering event, and avoiding or enduring these triggering situations. People with social anxiety disorder experience much more problems in their lives than people we can describe as shy. Escaping from situations that must be fulfilled daily can cause great problems on the functionality of the person.

In what situations is anxiety experienced?

People with social anxiety disorder; introducing others, being introduced to authorized persons, using the telephone, receiving guests, being watched while doing a job, making jokes, eating with acquaintances, eating at a restaurant, writing in front of others, using public toilets, speaking in public, shopping, etc. they may experience anxiety.

What symptoms occur during anxiety?

People often fear that their faces will turn red and sweat when they enter a social environment. Apart from these, symptoms such as palpitation, sweating, trembling, tension in the muscles, feelings of warmth and coldness may occur. Once the person has had such an experience, they begin to fear that these symptoms will come in the next social environment or performance evaluation.

People with social anxiety disorder perform far below their potential due to their intense anxiety about social environments. Rather than working in line with their own ideals and wishes, these people may work in jobs where they can be alone and below their abilities. Many choose to work in jobs with limited social demands.

In order to reduce anxiety in social environments and performance tables, the first address of escape is alcohol use. People try to reduce their anxiety levels by using alcohol before they encounter situations in which they will experience anxiety. For this reason, alcohol use disorder occurs in these individuals along with social anxiety disorder.

How does social anxiety disorder occur?

According to the behavioral approach; the person may have a negative social experience. After this experience, the person is classically conditioned to fear when he/she enters similar situations. After this stage, the person will exhibit avoidance behavior (getting away from social environments) in order to get rid of the fear that occurs. The avoidance behavior learned with operant conditioning will be a negative reinforcement and will affect the next behaviors. Avoidance behavior will occur when communicating with another person, from missing eye contact to avoiding speaking.

According to the cognitive approach; The most basic feature of social anxiety is a strong desire to make a special positive impression around the person, but on the other hand, it is a marked insecurity in the ability to do so (Clark & ​​Wells, 1995). According to this model, the most important cognitive component of this disorder is that individuals with social anxiety direct their attention not to the environment but to themselves in social environments where they believe that they will be negatively evaluated by others (Musa & Lepin, 2000). For example; Instead of focusing on the content of the conversation in the social environment, they focus on themselves and check whether they have made a mistake. This situation creates a vicious circle on the person and causes social anxiety.

Social anxiety disorder treatment

Social Anxiety treatments vary according to approaches. Exposure treatments can be effective in public social spaces or in small therapy groups, accompanied by a therapist. Avoidance behaviors, which are seen as safe behaviors, can be made aware of these behaviors by exposing them to people. The fact that exposure is effective does not mean that you will apply it to people with social anxiety around you. Otherwise, a much more dire picture may emerge. Also, the version of cognitive therapy developed by David Clark (1997); It can combat negative beliefs by focusing one’s attention on external stimuli rather than on himself.

People with social anxiety disorder are not shy! Because they have great difficulties in their lives, they need to be treated. For this reason, they should definitely apply to “experts” in their field.

Shedding light on the path to social anxiety is a very important way to help these patients. Remember, who wants to be trapped in a house and spend their life like this…

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