People with social anxiety dread interacting with others in public situations, mostly because they fear being evaluated or judged. Such people may come across as quiet, shy, inhibited, nervous, and aloof.
They often want to make friends and be included in groups, but their anxieties hold them back.
Physical symptoms can include rapid heart rate, sweaty palms, feelings of panic or dread, and lightheadedness. Unfortunately, many sufferers are reluctant to seek treatment for this chronic disorder.
Situations that can initiate symptoms include being introduced to new people, being taunted or ridiculed, or just being the center of attention.
Public speaking is a common trigger, as is dealing with authority figures. In such situations, making direct eye contact, shaking hands, or talking on the phone can elicit symptoms.
For some sufferers, even eating or drinking in public places can bring on anxiety symptoms.
Social anxiety disorder usually begins in childhood or adolescence. In fact, 75 percent of those with the condition experienced onset between ages 8 and 15.
For some, it begins after a stressful or humiliating experience, such as being bullied or having a panic attack in public. For others, the symptoms may develop slowly without a clear precipitating event.
People with social anxiety usually have the symptoms for many years before seeking help. Often, they’re not even aware they have a treatable disorder.
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