Lifestyle — What Social Anxiety Disorder Does To Your Body
by Rebecca Jones

A lot of us feel anxious in new social situations.

I can be one of the most outgoing people in the room, but with the slip of a switch, I can turn into a mouse.

The nervousness hits me, and I can't seem to snap out of it until I've physically removed myself from said social situation.

However, being nervous time to time isn't really the same as having social anxiety.

For those with social anxiety, the problem runs deeper than not wanting to go to a party alone or not wanting to give a speech in front of a large group of people.

Those with extreme social anxiety are nervous to just walk down a public street. They feel as if everyone is watching them, and they are constantly hyperaware of themselves to a crippling degree.

They experience physical side effects, like shortness of breath, nausea, paranoia and sometimes uncontrollable shakiness.

The disorder is so uncomfortable that the many who suffer from it only find solace at home in isolation.

So, why does this social anxiety even happen?

The reason we experience varying degrees of anxiety and fear in certain situations is because we have all developed a fight-or-flight response to keep us alert to danger.

But for people with social anxiety, this fight-or-flight response is hypersensitive.

Their response can be triggered just when they're around people, making them feel like they're in a life-threatening situation when they're just in the presence of other humans.

The disorder can stop many people from trying new things or even going after what they want.

As the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" states, social anxiety is an “illness of lost opportunities.”

They also avoid meeting new people, which means they miss out on important, intimate relationships.

Many take jobs in which they can have the least amount of social interaction, while others, too afraid to voice their opinion or pitch an idea in a meeting, stay in their same positions for much longer than they should.

However, social anxiety is curable with help from a medical expert or qualified psychotherapist, especially through cognitive behavioral therapy.

Stefan Hofmann, the director of the Social Anxiety Program at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, has found one particularly odd strategy to be very effective: making the patients face their fears.

From making a patient ask a pharmacist for the smallest condoms they sell to having another patient sing “God Bless America” on a street corner, Hofmann's goal is the same for each patient.

The point is to show the patient that the fear of certain situations is typically blown out of proportion in their minds.

He proves the standards they're holding themselves to are simply that: their own standards and not what anyone else expects of them.

To learn more about how it feels to have social anxiety, watch the video above.

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