We all, on occasion, experience social situations that make us feel anxious. Common examples of this type of anxiety include meeting your spouse's parents for the first time, changing schools, or moving to a new neighborhood. Most people would find these situations to be less than pleasant, but they cope with them and get through them with relative ease. Someone with social anxiety disorder (sometimes referred to as social phobia) would either have a difficult time with such situations, or try to avoid them completely.
A quick note is in order. Nothing in this article is meant to be medical advice of any kind. Always talk to your doctor about any health problems or concerns you may have.
The very fact that someone is trying to avoid social situations is a sign that they have a form of social anxiety disorder. While the majority of people may not like certain situations, they still face them and generally have a good time, in spite of their previous hesitation. Somebody with an anxiety disorder, on the other hand, may do everything they can to not have to deal with social situations, and may even feel other physical symptoms that they use as a reason for not attending social events.
If you have ever said something in a social setting that you have later regretted, then you are normal. You may remember it from time to time, and wish you would have said something else, but you don't let that stop you from having an active social life. Now, somebody with social anxiety disorder may continually replay social gaffes in their head until they refuse to attend events of any kind.
One of the difficulties of diagnosing any anxiety disorder is that there are so many symptoms, and the symptoms can be indicative of other potential health problems. In other words, a person may have social anxiety disorder and not even be aware of it. Therefore, a good first step is taking a self-awareness quiz that's designed to point out the probability of having an anxiety disorder.
The primary symptom is being afraid of embarrassment, judgment, close observation, criticism, or ridicule; either from others or due to something you may do yourself. Of course most people don't like to be subjected to those things, but a person who has social phobia will fear them before they ever happen, and it's this fear that leads to avoidance behavior. While some people thrive on being the center of attention, someone with social anxiety disorder typically prefers to go completely unnoticed in social settings.
If you think you have social anxiety disorder, there is still some good news. There are several treatment options available. Talk therapy and cognitive therapy will help you to deal with your anxiety by discussing it, and by teaching you various techniques for handling social situations. In some cases, your doctor or psychiatrist may prescribe medication. Many people have found success by combining both treatments when trying to conquer their social anxiety disorder.