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Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), Research Paper Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1041

Research Paper

Introduction

Some people have no fear when addressing a group of people. Most Americans; however, have some discomfort when it comes to addressing a crowd, and that is normal. But for a small group of individuals, speaking in front of more than a few familiar people is a devastating and very difficult task. These individuals suffer from social phobia, or social anxiety disorder. This disorder can easily dilapidate an individual’s ability to speak in front of crowds that are larger than four or five people. Those who suffer from the disorder explain that they become overwhelmed with an intense anxiety when placed in unfamiliar social situations. Most commonly, sufferers of social phobia are often plagued with fears that they will be judged by others (Gilbert, 2001). In an effort to prevent these crippling fears, social phobia sufferers often go to great lengths to avoid social situations that may trigger their symptoms. This paper will examine the history this disorder and offer suggestions for managing it successfully.

Background

Although the term ‘social phobia’ was coined in the early 1900s, evidence of the disorder can be traced back to 400 B.C. when Hippocrates described the disorder when referencing one of his associates (Connor & Jonathan, 2000). During the 1930s, psychologists diagnosed their extremely patients with ‘social neurosis’. It was not until Joseph Wolpe examined the full extent of extreme shyness that it was finally accepted as an eligible phobia. During the 1960s, Isaac Marks went a step beyond and classified social phobia as a phobia distinct from all other phobias. In fact, the British psychiatrist managed to have his theory accepted by the American Psychiatric Association (Connor & Jonathan, 2000). Despite the research associated with the disorder, social phobia was mostly ignored until the mid-1980s. Richard Heimberg and Michael Liebowitz (respective clinical psychologist and psychiatrist) raised awareness of the disorder and renamed it social anxiety disorder. Their collaborative research paved the way for the development of therapies and cognitive behavioral models to treat the disorder. In addition, the first prescription medication to treat social anxiety disorder was approved during the early 1990s (Connor & Jonathan, 2000). Since then, various other prescription medications have been developed to treat the disorder.

Discussion

Modern science indicates that social anxiety disorder is becoming more common than once thought. Recent statistics show that an estimated 36 percent of Americans have been diagnosed with the disorder (Gilbert, 2001). Fear of public speaking is cited as the leading specific to social anxiety disorder. Other fears or triggers associated with the disorder include using public restrooms, meeting new people, engaging in small talk with strangers, going on a first date with someone, being called on in class, taking an exam, being watched while performing a certain task, visiting a restaurant, and attending social gatherings (Hales & Yudofsky, 2003).

Occasional nervousness does not always indicate the onset of social anxiety disorder. A large number of individuals are just naturally shy; however, their shyness rarely interferes with their ability to function or perform everyday tasks. Social phobia, however, tends to cause sufferers enormous amounts of stress and appears with a person’s ability to do everyday tasks, such as go to work or school (Gilbert, 2001). For example, a person who has social anxiety disorder will start panicking about a speech weeks before it is supposed to happen. That person may even call in sick to work in order to prevent giving the speech.

Disorder symptoms fall into three categories; emotional, physical, and behavioral. Emotional symptom refer to disproportionate self-consciousness in common situations, an excessive fear of being watched or judged by others (especially strangers), and overwhelming fear that one’s actions may cause severe embarrassment. Physical symptoms include hot flashes or sweating, chest pains, shaking (or having a shaky voice), blushing, nausea, and shortness of breath. Behavioral symptoms include the avoidance of uncomfortable situations to the point of being disruptive to a normal life, drinking prior to engaging in an uncomfortable social situation, and having a friend companion for every social situation (Hales & Yudofsky, 2003).

Fear of being scrutinized is the underlying fear that accompanies the disease. As such, overcoming that fear could potentially alleviate a large number of symptoms associated with social anxiety disorder. For instance, an individual who suffers from the disorder should change their mental processes. In other words, they should employ positive thinking to ensure positive outcomes(Connor & Jonathan, 2000). A person who thinks that everyone would scrutinize his or her every action is more likely to act in ways that beckon scrutiny. However, if a person practices more positive thinking, chances are that the outcome of those thoughts will be equally as positive. Another method that experts agree will alleviate social phobia symptoms is breath control. Victims of social phobia often have a hard time breathing in uncomfortable situations; however, if they do regular breathing exercises, they will be calmer and better apt to cope in an uncomfortable situation. Lastly, as with any other phobia, experts suggest that sufferers of social anxiety disorder should face their fears. For instance, a person who is afraid of addressing crowds should make an effort to surround themselves with larger groups of people. Doing so will boost their confidence and gradually make them more comfortable in those situations (Gilbert, 2001).

Conclusion

Although social anxiety disorder is more common today than years ago, it is still a life-altering disorder with very real and very uncomfortable consequences. Sufferers of the phobia experience emotional, physical, and behavioral symptoms that often interfere with their everyday lives. In addition to prescription medications, sufferers could also employ some exercises to help alleviate some of these symptoms. For instance, those suffering from social phobia could purposely place themselves in uncomfortable situations (such as a large crowd) in an effort to overcome their fears. Furthermore, those who suffer from the disorder could also do breathing exercises prior to entering an uncomfortable situation to help regulate their breathing and calm their nerves.

References

Connor, K., & Jonathan, J. (2000). Psychometric properties of the Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN): New self-rating scale. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 44(8), 1177-1185.

Gilbert, P. (2001). Evolution and social anxiety. The role of attraction, social competition, and social hierarchies. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 24(4), 723–751.

Hales, R., & Yudofsky, S. (2003). Social phobia. In Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Publishing.

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