9 Social Anxiety Facts You Must Know

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Dr Jeremy Dean, author and anxiety expert penned this article.

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 Around 50% of people consider themselves shy, but social anxiety is more than that.

1. More than just shyness

Around 50% of people consider themselves shy, but social anxiety is more than that.

Social anxiety disorder is thought to affect around 1 in 8 people

The condition often strikes at important moments in people’s life and usually leads to a significant reduction in their quality of life.

2. The best treatment is CBT

Social anxiety disorder is most commonly treated with antidepressants, but these are not the most effective treatment.

A new study finds that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is more effective and the benefits continue after the initial treatment has finished.

 

3. It’s a chemical imbalance, but not the one you think

Social anxiety disorder is linked to higher levels of serotonin in the brain, not lower as previously thought.

People with social anxiety actually produce more of the neurotransmitter serotonin in their brains.

The more serotonin they produce, the more anxious they become.

The result is a surprise as social anxiety are often treated with SSRIs like Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft.

SSRIs actually increase the levels of serotonin in the brain.

4. Still, antidepressants help some…

A combination of SSRI antidepressants and cognitive-behavioural therapy can be an effective treatment for social anxiety disorder.

Brain scans showed that the combined therapy reduced the neural response in the amygdala — part of the brain central to processing fear and anxiety.

5. …but have side-effects

While antidepressants can be effective, they are also associated with side-effects, and they don’t work for some people.

More importantly, the beneficial effects of medication tend to wear off after discontinuation.

6. Your friends like you more than you think

People with social anxiety disorder can find it difficult to make friends, but they are seen more positively by others than they imagine.

While social anxiety sufferers think their friendships are not of the highest quality, their friends are much more positive.

7. Acts of kindness can help

Performing acts of kindness can help people with social anxiety mingle with others more easily, a recent study finds.

At the end of the study it was those who’d performed the acts of kindness who felt more comfortable in social interactions.

The acts of kindness seemed to help people deal with worries about rejection.

8. Exercise and probiotics

People who eat more fermented foods have lower social anxiety, a study finds.

Fermented foods that are a regular part of the Western diet include milk, cheese, yoghurt and bread.

They typically contain probiotics, which are likely behind the benefit.

The study also found that the more exercise people did, the lower their social anxiety.

9. It is never as bad as you imagine

It might feel like everyone can see exactly how anxious you feel, but that’s not necessarily the case.

People who have serious anxiety disorders consistently overestimate their symptoms in comparison to objective tests.

Severely anxious people, studies show:

  • do not sweat as much as they think,
  • their hands do not shake as much as they imagine,
  • and their breathing is not as erratic as it seems to them.

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