Social anxiety disorder is defined as a persistent and overwhelming fear of social situations where embarrassment may occur. This fear creates a significant impairment in social, occupational or other areas of functioning. This fear will typically last for 6 or more months. Some common symptoms are blushing, fast heartbeat, trembling, sweating, upset stomach, difficulty breathing, dizziness and a feeling that your mind has gone blank.

The exact causes of social phobia are unknown however there are several environmental factors that can contribute. These include bullying, family conflict, and abuse. Children can also develop social anxiety because of being raised in controlling or overprotective environments.

Some biological factors such as a serotonin imbalance may also contribute to the condition. Serotonin is a chemical that helps to regulate mood. The part of the brain that regulates the fear response, called the amygdala, may also contribute to this disorder. Anxiety disorders often run in families however it is not certain whether this is due to a genetic component or learned behaviour being passed down from parent to child.

The treatment with the best outcome for Social Anxiety Disorder is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) alongside medication. CBT for social anxiety involved learning to control the physical symptoms, challenging negative thoughts and facing the feared situations. The most common types of medication used to treat social anxiety include antidepressants, beta blockers, and benzodiazepines.

If you require help with social anxiety, I have linked a very good self-help resource below. I also encourage seeking therapy and consulting your GP about the possibility of taking medication.

Self-Help Resource: http://www.moodjuice.scot.nhs.uk/shynesssocialphobia.asp

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