Social Anxiety Disorder negatively impacts an individual’s ability to feel comfortable in social interactions. The disorder can significantly interfere with day-to-day functioning. Although an individual may be very interested in forming and maintaining social connections with others, the fear of the interaction can be intense and can motivate avoidance; if social interactions frequently lead to discomfort, it can be easy to want to avoid these situations. It is often the case that symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder can lead one to anticipate judgment or criticism from others. A fear of embarrassment is often a core feature of Social Anxiety Disorder.
The Problem of Social Anxiety Disorder
For some individuals, the avoidance of social interactions can be so ingrained in their daily routine that they may go many years without fully grasping the breadth of the problem; the avoidance can essentially resolve the anxiety in a temporary sense, but the underlying problem can continue. In this sort of problem, it can be easy to “buy in” to your basic assumptions about your social involvement. These assumptions can range from believing that you will become embarrassed if you start an interaction to believing that you don’t have what it takes to have fulfilling relationships in the future.
Getting Help and Testing for Social Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder can pose an interesting problem for individuals who are seeking help. Some mental health treatments (e.g., counseling or group psychotherapy) designed to address symptoms of this disorder require an interaction. Group therapy can offer extraordinary benefits as this treatment modality can allow someone to directly understand and work on their symptoms as their reactions to the interaction are elicited. If one perceives their group therapy as a safe environment, this can allow for important growth opportunities. Psychological testing can prepare an individual to benefit from treatment resources and can evaluate why any previous treatment experiences may not have been as effective as possible. When participating in psychological testing, it is important to realize that an interview alone does not always illuminate the depth of the impairment; being open to a variety of different ways of obtaining data about the problem (e.g., self-report questionnaires, discussing your personal history, involving a family member or friend that knows you well) can be very important. Some individuals may have trouble remembering all of their social problems, although they may be generally aware of these problems, as they are being questioned; in addition to being open to a variety of data collection methods, it can be helpful to sit down and write a few notes about your social experiences in preparation for your evaluation.