What is the bigger fear: Having social anxiety disorder OR not knowing you have it? Let’s be honest, “ignorance is bliss” might work wonders in many aspects of life but not with mental health.
Knowing and being prepared for anything that comes your way is a far better approach to problems than any other. Mental Health issues are no exception.
Through this article, you will learn about social anxiety disorder test, acute social anxiety symptoms, reasons for sudden onsets and much more.
Social Anxiety Disorder
We are all well aware that social anxiety is one of the more common mental health issues but how many of us know the prevalence of social anxiety disorder in India?
How common is common?
A study (in India) by the World Health Organization in October of 2020 predicted that the number of people suffering from mental health issues would rise from 7.5% to 20% by the end of the year.
Of this, about a rough estimate of 58 million Indians suffer from anxiety disorders of the 1.39 billion population. This makes social anxiety disorder (SAD) a common mental health disorder.
What does acute social anxiety disorder look like?
Symptoms of acute social anxiety disorder as described by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) are:
- Uncontrolled fear of being judged
- Reluctance to show anxiety symptoms (blushing, sweating, etc.) that might be readily seen by others
- Building tension in anticipation of any social event
- An amplified fear of rejection or disapproval
- Tendency to almost always avoid social occasions
This should not be confused with Performance Only Social Anxiety Disorder. The latter comes into play only when an individual is performing or speaking in public.
Sudden onset of Social Anxiety Disorder
Patients who have recently developed the disorder, well past their birth stages might often ask this question: “Why do I have social anxiety all of a sudden?”
Here’s a list of reasons why SAD could have been triggered at a later stage in life:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health disorder that occurs after a person has witnessed a traumatizing event such as death of a loved one, natural disaster, terrorist attacks and more.
Such individuals are more likely to develop anxiety of interacting with people after the event has occurred and might avoid socializing as far as they can.
Individuals suffering from depression or a bout of depression often tend to hide their thoughts and emotions. A tendency that makes them feel safe and protected from the world.
A patient of depressions finds comfort in distancing himself from others and might become irritable or fearful when invited to socialize.
- Alcohol Abuse:
Alcohol abuse is a criminal offence and people often take to it when they are not in their best head space. Alcohol abuse in itself might find its root cause in depression or other mental health issues but can be a contributing factor towards social anxiety disorder.
Social anxiety can be developed in these people overtime as they see themselves as inadequate.
Another situation would be when alcohol abusers refrain from meeting others in a social set up as they are afraid of relapsing.
- Panic Disorder:
An anxiety disorder wherein an individual who fears losing control, experiences a spiked heart rate and terror when in a situation where there might be little to no real threat.
These episodes are more likely to occur at social settings as one can have no control over the minds and actions of others. A patient of panic disorder might develop SAD in the long run.
Isolation induced Social Anxiety Disorder previously observed in inmates who were cut off from the world when kept in solitary confinement might become more common in the recent times.
Though not completely isolated from the world, thanks to technology, the face-to-face communication has reduced drastically during the Covid-19 pandemic.
This will leave people susceptible to becoming socially less inclined and can eventually lead to Social Anxiety Disorder.
Social Anxiety Disorder Test
A common question that individuals across the globe have is: “How can I prove I have social anxiety?”
Persons suffering from social anxiety disorder may not be able to perform several day to day activities, especially not with the efficiency of those who don’t suffer from such anxiety. It is important for such persons to have available a proof of their disorder as they will be observed and graded differently.
A medical diagnosis would also be necessary for practitioners to prescribe meds.
While there is no medically acclaimed social anxiety disorder test, there are a few methods to help you determine if you might be suffering from social anxiety.
- Obvious symptoms:
If you are experiencing persistent symptoms that hinder your day-to-day performance in personal relationships, work life and even regular activities over long durations, you must discuss it with your psychiatrist.
Example: nervousness that makes you avoid company presentations, skipping a trip with friends due to fear of judgement.
- Do I have Social Anxiety Quiz:
Certain mental health websites offer a quick self-assessment quiz that helps ascertain your reaction, response and behaviour in certain situations. The test determines whether your thinking pattern, habits and choices are similar to those of people suffering from SAD.
- Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale:
A questionnaire developed by psychiatrist Michael Liebowitz to assess an individual’s response with respect to fear and avoidance in two aspects: social situations and public performance.
With this test, your psychiatrist will be able to diagnose the degree of severity of SAD that you suffer from by ticking against the circle under the option which feels most relevant to you.
Please bear in mind that this test must be administered by a medical professional and responses must be as close to reality as possible.
- Social Anxiety Interaction Scale:
The SIAS assesses nervousness experienced when interacting with people. Like the Liebowitz Scale, this test helps to ascertain if an individual is suffering from or is likely to suffer from social anxiety disorder (in the long run). Through its questions, it establishes the relatability an individual has with a given reaction in a specific social set up.
Measured on a scale of 0 to 4:
- 0-Not a characteristic of me
- 1-Mildly characteristic of me
- 2-Moderately characteristic of me
- 3-Highly characteristic of me
- 4-Extremely characteristic of me
However, the scale cannot determine the levels of fear a person feels when considering the fear of being judged or embarrassed.
While the self-assessment method can ascertain your candidature for social anxiety disorder, the psychiatric scales are methods of diagnosis employed by practitioners.
Please avoid self-diagnosing based merely on observations of symptoms that have been found on the internet and have no professional verification.
Apart from these tests, medical professionals might require patients to undergo other medical examinations in order to rule out comorbidities or physical ailments that might be associated with social anxiety.
When should a person with social anxiety seek help?
People often wonder: ‘How do I know if I’m shy or have social anxiety?’
Well, the answer is not that simple. There is a fine line between being shy and being socially anxious.
Example: an individual who takes longer to warm up to others and interact with them is shy, whereas, someone who completely avoids the opportunity of joining and getting to know others is more likely to be socially anxious.
Another aspect to keep in mind is that although it is never too early or never too late to seek help with mental health disorders, there might be certain constraints to seeking help that people face on individual basis.
Example: financial issues, religious issues, issues of faith in medicine and science.
In order to differentiate between those who need immediate medical attention and those who can afford to employ self-help methods to overcome social anxiety, we need to take a look at the levels of social anxiety an individual experiences, as determined by a social anxiety disorder test.
Levels of Social Anxiety:
- Mild to none:
Do you recall feeling shy when asked to recite a poem in front of your relatives?
This clinically non-significant level of anxiety is often developed in the childhood stages and carries forth to adulthood. Given the negligible degree, this level often goes undiagnosed and may be shrugged aside by suffering individuals as regular shyness.
Often this level of anxiety can be overcome with exercises, meditation and self-help methods of coping.
Do your hands get sweaty right before you walk into a room full of people?
Clinically more significant than mild anxiety, moderate levels of social anxiety can make a person nervous and fearful for a major part of the week. Days of restlessness and fear of embarrassment constantly keeping them on the edge.
This level of anxiety requires medical intervention to supplement self-help methods. If left unchecked, it could gradually escalate to extreme levels of anxiety.
Do you tend to have black outs before an important meeting?
The highest level of anxiety can lead to a person suffering panic attacks very often. There might also be instances of black outs and blank out. In many cases, persons with extreme social anxiety fall into alcohol and substance abuse too which further increases social withdrawal causing more social anxiety.
This level of anxiety requires medical intervention in the form of meds, coping strategies and all the support from people around the individual that needs help to regain stability.
This better helps to understand the question: ‘Does social anxiety go away?’ as it is possible to keep anxiety at bay or reduce it to controllable levels with proper help and support.
However, like most mental health problems, individuals must be willing to overcome social anxiety disorder and must put in every cent of their efforts into recovery.
Even though the scientists and medical professionals cannot promise a complete recover, there is still hope for gaining control over the situation.
Famous people with Social Anxiety Disorder
If there is someone who can teach us how to fight our battles, they are our role models.
Celebrities and famous personalities who have endured similar mental health issues serve as a beacon of light to those who are struggling with theirs.
Here’s a list of 5 individual who affirmed battling or having battled social anxiety disorder.
- Anushka Sharma
The actress took to twitter once confirming she suffered from social anxiety and was grateful for all the help and medical support, she received in overcoming her problems.
- Ileana D’Cruz
In an interview show by the name ‘Miss Malini’, Ileana went on record to confess suffering from anxiety disorder and expressed gratitude towards friends and family members to help her battle the disorder.
The entire concert stadium witnessed Adele’s Social Anxiety Disorder first hand when she vomited on stage and escaped through the fire exit. The artist has spoken about her anxiety attacks and her road to recovery on public platforms.
- Taylor Swift
Given that her life has been turned into an open book by the media and paparazzi, Taylor Swift has openly spoked to the public about the anxiety it puts her through on a regular basis. She has discussed medications that she was put on to gain control over her social anxiety issues.
- Oprah Winfrey
The famous talk show host, TV producer and network owner has confessed to suffering from social anxiety to this day. She also shares with the viewers her journey through some of her darkest days and how she fought to make it to the other side of each battle.
Despite not having a single rigid social anxiety disorder test, it is possible for us to identify the symptoms. Through this article, you have now learned the methods using which you can help people not only find out that they are suffering SAD but also how to go about approaching it. Real life examples of famous celebrities that suffer from the same disorder provide us a hope with overcoming our own struggles with mental illness. Take note from this article and go on to help as many people as you can.
Together we stand, together we can.
Let me know in the comments below, how this article was of help to you.