Does the thought of public speaking frighten you? How about going to parties or concerts? Or maybe you walk down the hallway at school or work without looking up, anticipating that others will judge or criticize you? If any of these situations cause you fear, you may be experiencing symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 (DSM-5), the following are criteria for Social Anxiety Disorder:
- Marked fear or anxiety about one or more social situations in which the individual is exposed to possible scrutiny by others. (In children, anxiety must occur in peer settings and not just with adults).
- Individual fears that he or she will act in a way or show anxiety symptoms that will be negatively evaluated.
Social situations almost always provoke fear or anxiety. (In children, fear or anxiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, freezing, clinging, shrinking, or failing to speak in social situations.)
- Social situations are avoided or endured with intense fear or anxiety.
- Fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual threat posed by the social situation and sociocultural context.
- Fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting 6 months or more.
- Fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Research shows that about 7% of adults experience Social Anxiety Disorder, with the median age of onset occurring at 13 years of age. The teen years are a difficult time of adjustment, yet it is even more complicated for those with Social Anxiety. While more females than males experience this disorder, they both exhibit a fear of being negatively evaluated by others and avoidance of these situations.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Social Phobia
Because Social Anxiety is a disorder in which one’s cognitions or thoughts contribute to the anxiety, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the hallmark treatment. Therapy consists of identifying your automatic thoughts and assumptions about yourself and others, as well as examining them for evidence that proves or disproves their accuracy. Other techniques, such as cognitive restructuring, conducting experiments, and role playing are also used. If you want assistance in addressing your Social Anxiety, contact a Social Anxiety Therapist today.