Social anxiety is more than just shyness
Social anxiety disorder affects about 1 in 8 people. The condition usually strikes at important times in people’s lives and generally leads to a significant reduction in their quality of life.
Also read: Differences between Shyness and Social Phobia
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2. The best treatment for social anxiety disorder is CBT
Social anxiety disorder is most commonly treated with antidepressants, but these are not the most effective treatment. A new study found that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is more effective in treating ‘social phobia ‘ and the benefits continue after the initial treatment is completed.
3. It’s a chemical imbalance, but not what you think
Social anxiety disorder is linked to higher levels of serotonin in the brain, not lower levels, as previously thought. People with social anxiety actually produce more of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.
The more serotonin they produce, the more anxious they become. The result is a surprise since social anxiety is often treated with SSRIs like Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft. SSRIs ( selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors ) actually increase serotonin levels in the brain.
4. Still, antidepressants help some…
A combination of SSRI antidepressants and cognitive-behavioral therapy can be an effective form of treatment for social anxiety disorder .
The brain scans showed that the combination therapy reduced the neural response in the amygdala – part of the brain that is central to processing fear and anxiety.
5.… but have side effects
While antidepressants can be effective, they are also associated with side effects, and they do not work for some people.
Most importantly, the beneficial effects of the medication tend to wear out after discontinuation.
6. Your friends like you more than you think
People with social anxiety disorder may have difficulty making friends, but they are seen more positively by others than they realize ( Trew & Alden, 2015 ). While those who suffer from social anxiety think their friendships are not of good quality, their friends are much more positive.
7. Acts of kindness can help
Performing acts of kindness can help people with social anxiety to mix with others more easily, according to a recent study ( Rodebaugh et al., 2014 ).
At the end of the study, whoever performed the acts of kindness felt more comfortable in social interactions. Acts of kindness seemed to help people deal with concerns about rejection.
8. Exercises and probiotics
People who eat more fermented foods have less social anxiety ( Hilimire et al., 2015 ) . Fermented foods that are a regular part of the Western diet include milk, cheese, yogurt and bread. They usually contain probiotics, which can be beneficial.
The study also found that the more exercise people did, the lower their social anxiety .
9. It’s never as bad as you might think
You may feel like everyone can see exactly how anxious you feel, but that is not necessarily the case. People who have severe anxiety disorders consistently overestimate their symptoms, compared to objective tests.
Severely anxious people:
- don’t sweat as much as you think,
- their hands don’t shake as much as they imagine,
- and the breathing is not as irregular as it seems to them.