Most people occasionally get anxious in social situations, especially those that involve public speaking, meeting new people, or high stakes interactions like a job interview or asking someone out. You may get butterflies in your stomach just before you have to give a toast, but then feel fine once you get going. People with social anxiety disorder, or SAD, experience intense anxiety in social situations. If they have to attend a party or give a speech, they may obsess about it for weeks, then afterwards, obsess about their perceived mistakes, perhaps for years. SAD is really a social phobia, or pathological shyness. Symptoms of SAD often include extreme fear of embarrassment, avoiding situations where you might be the center of attention, and physical symptoms like blushing, dizziness, shaking, or nausea in social situations. SAD can have many negative effects on your life, harming relationships, limiting career opportunities, and making everyday responsibilities feel unbearable. Many people with SAD use drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with their symptoms. If you suffer from SAD, there is effective treatment available. Studies show that about 70 percent of people respond well to treatment. Typically, treatment for SAD includes some mix of psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy for SAD draws from cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. There are two main components to CBT for SAD. First, you learn to challenge your maladaptive assumptions about social interactions. For example, you may have a number of erroneous beliefs about socializing. You might feel like everyone is scrutinizing you and judging you, just waiting for you to mess up, when in reality, people are mostly worried about themselves. Or you might feel like it would be a disaster if you don’t behave perfectly at a party when actually the world won’t end even if you act like an idiot. A therapist can help you uncover these inaccurate beliefs so you can actually challenge them when they start to fuel your anxiety. Another aspect of CBT for SAD is exposure therapy. This when you deliberately expose yourself to a social situation that might be stressful, but not too stressful. After that, you can push your boundaries a little more. With each new challenge, you discover that you can handle most social situations well enough, and, perhaps more importantly, if an interaction does go badly, it’s not that big of a deal. The other line of treatment is medication. SAD is typically treated with SSRI antidepressants such as Paxil or Zoloft. These boost serotonin, improving your mood and making you feel calmer. These typically work best in combination with therapy. The medication eases your anxiety and allows you think more clearly so you can better challenge your inaccurate beliefs. Medication often helps with SAD, but it typically takes at least a month for it to start working and finding the right drug may involve some trial and error.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or social anxiety disorder, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.