Do you have a Social Anxiety Disorder?
As a group, anxiety disorders – persistent, intense feelings of nervousness, anxiety and even fear – are the most common type of all mental disorders. In 2013, an estimated 3 million Canadians aged 18 years or older reported that they had a mood and/or anxiety disorder. A study by the World Health Organization, Harvard School of Public Health and the World Bank has predicted that by year 2020, anxiety disorders will rank as the second highest source of disability amongst neuro-psychiatric conditions, behind unipolar major depression, and ahead of schizophrenia, alcohol use, dementia and drug use.
Anxiety is a normal part of life. It’s common to have “butterflies” before stressful situations, like sitting an exam or going on a first date. However, for a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxious feelings are chronic. They don’t go away and can get worse over time. They often develop in childhood and adolescence and can affect their work, social activities, education and recreation as adults.
Many people struggle through life attempting to hide their social anxiety from others and deal with it on their own. But there is treatment, either through medication or psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) focuses on identifying, challenging, and neutralizing unhelpful thoughts that underlie anxiety disorders. It teaches people to understand and think about their problem in new ways. Research also shows that people treated with CBT are less likely to relapse after treatment. For more information on CBT, check out anxietybc.com.
The Social Anxiety Institute has published a survey that you fill out about yourself. It helps you determine whether you have social anxiety disorder (social phobia) or not, and a way of gauging how much social anxiety is experienced.
Take the survey to see how you scale.
One of the most devastating is social phobia, or social anxiety disorder, the fear of social situations that involve interacting with other people. These can include parties, conversations, meetings, public speaking – any performance situation where a person might expect to be observed, judged, embarrassed or rejected. People with social anxiety can worry so much about offending others they avoid people as much as possible, and are often seen as shy, withdrawn, unfriendly and aloof. They feel self-conscious around other people and can have a hard time making friends.
Researchers have found several risk factors for developing social anxiety, such as shyness in childhood, being female, and having a family history of social phobia. Children who experience bullying or physical or sexual abuse are also at risk, as are people of any age who have a health condition that draws attention, such as facial disfigurement, stuttering, or Parkinson’s disease. Being financially distressed can trigger social anxiety in some people as can being widowed or divorced.
6 facts about anxiety disorders:
1. One in four Canadians will have at least one anxiety disorder in their lifetime.
2. Anxiety disorders are associated with a ten-fold increase in suicide risk.
3. Young people with untreated anxiety disorders are at risk for developing depression and substance abuse in early adult years.
4. Women are twice as likely to develop anxiety disorders as men.
5. People who suffer from anxiety are at greater risk for developing a number of chronic health conditions, such as heart disease and gastrointestinal problems.
6. Anxiety may be hereditary. Many people who have anxiety disorders believe they inherited it from their parents, or learned it growing up.
- Murray, C.J.L. & Lopez, A.D. (1996). The Global Burden of Disease: a comprehensive assessment of mortality and disability from diseases, injuries, and risk factors in 1990 and projected to 2020. Harvard School of Public Health.
2. Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada.
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