Social Anxiety

Why Isn't It Better Known?

Everyone has heard of alcoholism and depression, the two top mental health care problems.  But number three on this list is social anxiety disorder, formerly called "social phobia."

Very few people have heard of social anxiety disorder (the acronym of which should be the "true" SAD).

How is social anxiety going to "compete" against all the other, but more unusual, mental health problems, such as schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder, Tourette's Syndrome, antisocial personality disorder, bipolar disorder, or even another anxiety disorder, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Social anxiety disorder, in comparison, is downright boring. 

It has no "strange"  elements that are visible to others.  There are no "sexy" elements to it.  It is a disease of inhibition (shyness) and avoidance.  A person with social anxiety disorder typically shrinks into the background and is usually not heard.

Can you see a movie-of-the-week about a very shy person who rarely leaves the house except to go to work, who has few friends, and is afraid of answering the door or the phone?  This would be highly interesting drama, wouldn't it?

This scenario partially explains the lack of understanding the general public has about social anxiety.  People with social anxiety appear to be "normal" in every regard.  No one can "see" the social anxiety raging inside. 

The second problem is that people with social anxiety are afraid of making appointments with mental health care professionals.  

Why?  It is hard to call and talk to another person, in the first place.  Then, if they are able to overcome this difficulty, the "professional" typically does not understand what the socially-anxious person is living with, and the depth of fear and anxiety the person is living with.  Therapists usually prescribe a few relaxation techniques, some medication, and tell the person that they are really "OK," they appear normal, and nothing is wrong with them.

This scenario, which can happen time and time again, is highly debilitating for people with social anxiety.  It reinforces the fact that they have a horrible, life-restricting disorder that causes extreme anxiety in most social situations, AND NO ONE CAN EVEN UNDERSTAND IT, let alone help them.

"I must be the only one in the world who has this horrible disease.

"I am a freak.  I am just weird.  No one else in the world is going through what I'm going through."

The feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that are experienced are intense; in fact, many professionals see this as "depression" and never get at what the person is depressed about (i.e., being socially anxious).

Learn more while you're here.  The Social Anxiety Institute is dedicated to the better understanding and treatment of social anxiety disorder (social phobia).  There are several hundred articles concerning social anxiety disorder on this site.

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