Can you self-diagnose Social Anxiety Disorder?

by | Mar 15, 2021

We are social beings, and we are expected to relate to each other normally and even do so in order to survive. However, it is normal to feel nervous in new or challenging social situations, like a job interview, speaking in public, or a first date. These types of situations can make people feel somewhat apprehensive depending on their personality. Some people may feel insecure, while others may feel anxious or ashamed. Nevertheless, when we talk about a social anxiety disorder (or social phobia) we refer to people who feel this way at all times.

Just like any other anxiety disorders, social phobia interferes with daily life. Avoidance and fleeing social situations make it hard to work, study, and have relationships in general, which is very worrisome for those who suffer from this condition because social interaction happens in multiple levels and isolation may seem like the only way out.

Before answering the question of whether or not there is a way to self-diagnose social anxiety disorder or whether there is a Social Anxiety Test that you can take, let’s look into its definition, characteristics, symptoms, and causes. By looking into this we will be able to guide you and help you figure out a way to treat this mental health condition.

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social anxiety disorder or social phobia is a constant fear of all types of social situations. People who suffer from it feel insecure and place a lot if importance on what others think of them, to the point that they are unable to expose themselves to others.

Social phobia is not just being shy, and it is not about being an introvert either. Social phobia is a disorder in which fear keeps the individual from having any type of social contact. I it also known for paralyzing individuals and interfering with day-to-day life. This disorder appears most commonly during the teenage years, although there have been cases of it appearing during childhood and adulthood. Remember that shyness is normal during childhood and many children are not open to socializing, especially with strangers, and they always need the backing and approval of their parents. It is important to distinguish this very normal part of childhood from social anxiety disorder. Statistics show important information about this disorder. Firstly, it is one the most common and frequent disorders in teenage and young populations with 13% prevalence for the rest of their lives and 8% prevalence for one year in adults and teenagers (U.S.A. figures). It has also been found that it can coincide or exist as the same time as major depression, avoidant personality disorder, and other anxiety disorders.

What are the symptoms of social anxiety disorder?

Social anxiety disorder symptoms can vary but most individuals who suffer from it have persistent symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms, and we will classify them between behavioral and physical. The following is not a social anxiety test but can have you self-evaluate your behavior.

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Intense fear to interact with strangers
  • Fear of blushing, shaking, or sweating
  • Fear of being judged by others
  • Constant worry of feeling humiliated and criticized
  • Experience anxiety and fear in social situations
  • Avoid being the center of attention
  • Having catastrophic thoughts regarding social situations
  • Excessive worrying over mistakes after a social encounter

Generally, all these symptoms happen when the individual is exposed to others or has to speak in front of others. Nevertheless, they are able to handle other types of social situations where their participation is not necessary. 

Physical Symptoms:

When and individual suffers from this disorder, they can experience physical symptoms such as tachycardia, flushing, trouble breathing, tremors, sweat, muscle tension, memory lapse, stomach issues, and others. These symptoms are very similar to regular anxiety or nervousness. 

What are the causes of social anxiety disorder?

 Many disorders do not have a specific cause or that can be determined with precision. However, it is possible for social phobia to develop due to a mix of factors, as it happens with anxiety. Those factors are:

Hereditary: Genetic factors cause social anxiety disorder and can therefore be inherited, even though it is not proven to be a strong factor. People that come from families in which someone has suffered from this condition have a higher risk of suffering from it due to a trigger in their environment. 

Environmental: your nuclear family and the way you were raised can also be reasons for why someone might develop this disorder. In general, parents who are too apprehensive, controlling, or overprotective can promote this disorder. Likewise, a traumatic event in an individual’s life can also cause this individual to develop social phobias.

It is important to highlight that people with social anxiety disorder are prone to using and abusing drugs because these can make individuals feel temporarily uninhibited when it comes to certain behaviors, which can make interactions that are normally difficult much easier to cope with.  

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What types of situations are usually avoided?

When an individual suffers from this disorder, they tend to avoid situations that others might consider normal. The following situations could be part of a psychiatrist’s interview as part of a social anxiety test:

  • Initiating conversations
  • Attending social gatherings
  • Going on dates
  • Returning an item to a store or demanding justice at work
  • Befriending strangers
  • Speaking in public
  • Initiating eye contact or making eye contact in general
  • Interviewing for a job
  • Using a public restroom

Overall, these situations are day to day situations that most can handle without issues, but for someone with this disorder, these situations are emotionally taxing that generate excessive and irrational fear. 

Are there people with a higher risk of suffering from this disorder?

Yes, there are several factors that can increase the risk of suffering from social anxiety disorder. Some of these are:

Trauma of negative experiences: many people suffer from bullying when they are kids or have experienced a lot of social stress and were victims of bullying, abuse, and humiliation. These individuals are more likely to suffer from disorders like this one. They can also suffer from social phobia if they experienced these kinds of situations like negative family experiences such as negligence and abuse. 

Genetic predisposition: if a parent suffered from this disorder, this increases the risk that their children will develop this disorder.

Highly demanding social experiences: maybe it’s work, or different social situations, but they are new for those who experience them and could contribute to developing this disorder. 

Physical characteristics or special illnesses: certain illnesses that cause deformities or an accident that leaves scars on an individual’s face or body part can increase the patient’s risk of suffering from this disorder.

Personality: when someone is shy, introverted, or has a difficult time coping with social situations, their chances of suffering from this emotional disorder can increase. 

Let’s remember that generally, a combination of factors can increase the chances that someone will suffer from a social phobia. Rarely, it is caused by only one factor, and in any case, a vulnerable individual will not necessarily suffer from this disorder.

Can you self-diagnose social anxiety disorder?

Definitely not. There is not a social anxiety test that can tell you with certainty whether you suffer from this disorder or not by your answering some questions. This diagnosis (as well as others) can only be given after a psychiatric or psychological evaluation. The best thing to do is make an appointment with a professional, to be accurately diagnoses. 

Healthcare professionals are the only ones who can diagnose mental health disorders correctly, which means that no one can self-diagnose or self-medicate. The best thing to do is to seek professional help. 

What are the treatments?

Treatment depends on the severity of affection in the life of the patient. However, therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are usually recommended in addition to medication. For patient with severe symptoms, a mix of both therapy and medications is highly recommended, because there is relief for short-term symptoms as well as finding a long-term solution with CBT.

If an individual’s symptoms are mild or moderate, they can rely on programs like Mindphony to get help in managing social phobia or anxiety, as well as complementary to therapy and medications for more severe cases.

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