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About Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

About Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) affects approximately 5% of Australians adults. People with social phobia have excessive fear of being judged by others. Social phobia is more than shyness. Most people experience some degree of shyness from time to time. But, people with social anxiety find that it interferes with their everyday life in a significant way.

People with social phobia often experience physical symptoms of panic when in, or imagining, being in a social situation. These can include a racing heart, sweating, blushing, rapid and shallow breathing and an upset stomach. They often worry that others are judging them, and they avoid social events or public places because of fear of embarrassment or humiliation, or endure such situations with difficulty.

"John has social phobia: He worries excessively about what others think about him, this makes him worry about upcoming social situations. He often makes excuses to avoid going out, and avoids situations where he could become the centre of attention. In social situations John often experiences a racing heart, rapid breathing, sweating, and generally feels very self-conscious."

What Are the Symptoms of SAD?

People with SAD experience three main types of symptoms:

  • Physical Symptoms: when they are in a social situation or sometimes when they even imagine a social situation, people with social phobia often experience strong physical symptoms. These can include: sweating, a racing heart, faster breathing, shaking, upset stomach, tingling sensations, and other physical symptoms of anxiety.
  • Worrying Thoughts: these include thoughts like “they probably think I’m stupid/or an idiot”, “I’m going to make a fool of myself”, “they’re all going to laugh at me” and so on.
  • Avoiding Social Situations: they may avoid going out to parties, going shopping, going to the supermarket or bank, or other situations where they need to meet other people
  • Repetitive and upsetting thoughts, images or unwanted urges of a religious, sexual or immoral nature

Importantly, most people experience some degree of shyness from time to time. But, people with social phobia find that it affects their everyday life. So, they may avoid doing things, meeting people, or taking on new challenges or opportunities, because of their fear.

Treatment of SAD

The good news is that Social Anxiety is treatable. The best treatments involve:

(a) Learning about SAD, the symptoms and how they interact.
(b) Learning practical, proven, skills for controlling symptoms and using those skills to gradually practice going into situations you fear (i.e., to teaching yourself that you can manage those situations).

You can talk to your General Practitioner about getting a referral to an experienced mental health professional or another mental health professional to learn to manage your SAD. Or, you can try our Wellbeing Course.

The Wellbeing Course