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Social anxiety disorder: causes, symptoms

BEING uneasy in situations like a first date or a job interview is quite normal and happens to everyone. But when that nervousness escalates into a feeling of extreme discomfort, dread or apprehension about normal social interactions, it can result in a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder.
Also known as social phobia, social anxiety disorder involves significant anxiety and discomfort about being embarrassed or looked down upon in social or performance situations, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Typical situations that spark social anxiety are using public restrooms, interacting with strangers and public speaking.
Social anxiety can be so debilitating that it interferes with a person’s ability to perform everyday functions, attend social gatherings or even work, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
The disorder is often confused with shyness, but not all people who suffer from shyness have social phobia. According to a 2011 survey of more than 10,000 teens by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and published in the journal Pediatrics, only half of the youth identified as shy, and of that number only 12% met the criteria for social anxiety.
People who experience social anxiety disorder are highly apprehensive in social settings, according to NIMH, more so than the occasional case of nerves some may experience in everyday encounters.
Generally, people with social anxiety disorder are concerned about being harshly judged by other people, even if it is not the case, according to NIMH. There is a feeling that when they walk into a room, everyone is watching them. They are typically afraid of coming off as foolish and have an intense fear of embarrassingthemselves.
The symptoms can be physical, such as sweating, shaking, confusion, muscle tension or an accelerated heart rate, according to the Mayo Clinic. Blushing or having a red face is another physical manifestation of the disorder. Sufferers can feel faint or have a highly upset stomach.
Some of the symptoms can come on weeks or months before an event and be brought on by simply thinking about an upcoming social situation, according to the APA.
Social phobias severely inhibit a person’s ability to make and maintain friendships. To cope, many will completely avoid social situations or severely limit their activities. If they do attend a social gathering, they will fade into the background. They will rarely attend events alone and need to bring someone they know along for security. Unlike other anxiety disorders, there isn’t a lot known about what causes social anxiety disorder.