On the Shy Side: When Social fears become disabling..

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Ever felt shy before giving a speech or entering a roomful of strangers? Most of us have experienced shyness ? a temporary fear of what others might think of us. When this fear persists to the degree that a person often avoids social interactions, it is social phobia. Some times called social anxiety disorder (SAD)*, it affects about 5 million adults in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Sufferers tend to be extremely self-conscious and fearful of rejection. They may know their anxiety is irrational, yet is can become crippling when they confront certain situations, such as meeting people or eating in public. About 60% of people with SAD also suffer panic attacks. This level of anxiety triggers physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, shortness of breath and trembling. Even the thought of an ordinary activity like talking on the phone can trigger these symptoms.

Left untreated, SAD can lead to loneliness, missed opportunities, alcoholism, depression and even suicide. Fortunately, scientists have gained a better understanding of SAD and how to treat it. Genetics and unpleasant childhood experiences are likely clues. If you are having episodes of severe anxiety, it?s important to discuss it with your provider. There are several measures that can help, including:

1. antidepressant therapy
2. group therapy; counseling
3. repeated exposure to situations that cause anxiety
4. regular exercise and mediation

What might work best for you depends on your specific fears and their severity. With some effort, you can overcome social anxiety; don?t let it keep you from living a full and happy life.


*Different from seasonal affective disorder, which is related to daylight.

Author: Vanita Correa- USA

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