Social anxiety disorder is a persistent fear or feeling of anxiousness in social situations. These situations can involve interacting with others in a group setting, meeting unfamiliar people, situations where an individual may feel like they are being observed eating or drinking, and situations when an individual may be required to perform front of others (Pilling, Mayo-Wilson, Mavranezouli, Kew, Taylor, & Clark, 2013). Ultimately, the individual feels that in these social situations he/she will be judged or rejected by others or feels that they will either embarrass themselves or offend others by their own actions and behaviours.
While these feelings of intense anxiousness or distress at the thought of a social interaction might be largely out of proportion when compared to the imagined or anticipated threat, these feelings can build in intensity before the event to a point where the individual is unable to attend, choosing to avoid the situation entirely. Unfortunately, the feelings associated with social anxiety disorder are persistent and can become increasingly dominant over an individual’s quality of life, social functioning, academic and occupation performance. The feelings of anxiousness and preference to avoid social situations are unlikely to subside without treatment (Santoft, Salomonsson, Hesser, Lindsater, Ljotsson, Lekander, Keckland, Ost and Hedman-Lagerlof, 2019). The symptoms of social anxiety disorder typically start in childhood or adolescence (8 -15 years old) and if left untreated will continue into adulthood.
Although diagnoses of social anxiety disorder in adults can be especially difficult as symptoms or the diagnostic criteria for social anxiety disorder often presents in conjunction with other anxiety disorders, major depressive disorder, and substance use disorders (Beesdo, Bittner, Pine, Stein, Hofler, Lieb, and Wittchen, 2007). While the symptoms of social anxiety disorder can be crippling to the social interaction of an individual, it can also severely impact their quality of life if left untreated. However, it is anticipated that only half of all adults diagnosed with this disorder seek treatment (Pilling et al., 2013). Reasoning behind the lack of individuals seeking treatment for social anxiety disorder may reflect their own perceptions of their feelings and consider them a part of themselves, or something which they have learned to deal with and accepting them as part of life. Another factor preventing an individual from seeking treatment is they are unsure of the treatments available which may provide some relief of alleviate their symptoms entirely.
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