Some social situations make everyone nervous. Interacting with others — either in the form of a date or an important presentation, for instance — can be very scary. That’s normal.
If these feelings of social anxiety go above and beyond normal levels, you may actually be suffering from a social phobia (also known as social anxiety). These symptoms can go on to disrupt your everyday life and your relationships with others.
Thankfully, with treatments like ketamine infusions or psychotherapy, even the most severe cases of this condition can find relief from their symptoms.
What causes social anxiety?
Like other anxiety conditions, social anxiety is not the result of a single factor but instead is a complex mix of factors like the following:
- Inherited traits, from where your family has a history of anxiety or other mood disorders
- Brain structure and the way the amygdala within the brain manages your response to fear
- Environmental factors, such as a particularly embarrassing social situation
Risk factors for the development of social anxiety include:
- Negative social experiences
- Personal history of other mood disorders
Common social situations that may contribute to your symptoms if you have social anxiety include:
- Interacting with strangers
- Parties or large social gatherings
- Work or school
- Starting new conversations
- Eye contact
- Entering a new room
- Returning items that you have purchased
- Eating around other
- Using the restroom in public
The emotional and behavioral symptoms of a social anxiety disorder include:
- Fear of being judged or situations that open you up to the judgment
- Worry involving embarrassment or humiliation
- Fear of interaction with strangers
- Fear that others may notice your anxiety
- Fear of embarrassment due to physical symptoms like blushing, sweating, or trembling
- Avoidance of people, places, or situations out of fear or anxiety about the embarrassment
- Intense anxiety during social situations
- Overanalyzing your performance during a social situation
- Expecting the worst from social situations
Physical symptoms of a social anxiety disorder include:
- Shaky voice
- Fast heartbeat
- Upset stomach
- Trouble catching your breath
- Muscle tension
The treatment for a condition like social anxiety disorder greatly depends on how your symptoms affect your basic ability to function in everyday life. Treatment options include ketamine infusions for anxiety, psychotherapy, and medications, among others.
Though it first rose to prominence for its use as an anesthetic, ketamine is now being touted as a vital and important new treatment for mental health conditions like social anxiety. Ketamine infusions may be the start of a whole new age of treatment for mood disorders.
Psychotherapy is about learning to recognize your negative thought patterns and developing skills that can allow you a greater level of confidence in social situations. One example of this being exposure-based cognitive behavioral therapy, where you are exposed to the situations that cause anxiety. This allows you to find safe ways to work through your anxiety.
Some people find success with antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications, but these can take time and may have unwanted side effects.