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According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Social Anxiety Disorder affects 15 million adults or 6.8% of the U.S. population. With so many Americans affected by Social Anxiety Disorder, commonly referred to as SAD, it is important to know the characteristics, causes, and treatment options available for those suffering from this anxiety disorder.

At BrainForest, we believe that those who suffer from anxiety disorders, such as Social Anxiety Disorder, need all of the information available to combat their most debilitating symptoms. Today, we’ll be answering the question of what Social Anxiety Disorder is and the path to help those who deal with this issue every day.

Defining Social Anxiety Disorder

So what is Social Anxiety Disorder? While Social Anxiety Disorder is often confused with shyness, there is much more to this anxiety disorder than that. Whether it be a public speaking event or stepping into a room full of strangers, we all know the feeling of being in an uncomfortable social situation at one time or another. Those with Social Anxiety Disorder, however, are plagued with an especially debilitating fear of these events.

Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as social phobia, is one of the most common mental disorders. While the effects of this anxiety disorder are severe and life-altering, there is hope for those suffering from it. Next, we’ll talk a bit more in-depth about some of the most common characteristics of Social Anxiety Disorder.

The Characteristics of Social Anxiety Disorder

Although anxiety disorders look different for each individual suffering from them, there are some common characteristics. Those suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder experience a crippling fear of being judged or negatively evaluated by those around them on a daily basis. Even worse, this fear of judgment or rejection in social situations often makes the sufferer worried that they’ll appear socially anxious, boosting their symptoms.

Due to this severe fear, many people with Social Anxiety Disorder go out of their way to avoid social situations. When such situations cannot be avoided, extreme anxiety and distress occurs. There are a number of physical symptoms associated with Social Anxiety Disorder, and these symptoms range in intensity and severity. Regardless, they can be debilitating. Here are some of those physical symptoms:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Panic attacks

How to Know if You Have Social Anxiety Disorder

As mentioned, we all have experienced a certain level of discomfort or anxiety from social situations at one point or another. In determining whether or not you have a Social Anxiety Disorder it is important to determine whether or not your level of social anxiety crosses the line from normal to neurotic.

This is further complicated by the fact that the symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder typically overlap with other disorders, most notably PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Each of these disorders can cause extreme distress in social situations similar to Social Anxiety Disorder.

In order to find the right treatment, it is important to correctly identify the presence of Social Anxiety Disorder. The DSM-5 defines Social Anxiety Disorder as “a persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others.”  This fear can be specific to a certain social situation or generalized. There are a number of criteria that one must meet according to the DSM-5 in order to be diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder including:

  • Fear or anxiety to one or more social situations
  • Interference with daily life in career, academics, or relationships
  • Social anxiety that is persistent for six months or more
  • Fear of rejection or judgment due to social anxiety symptoms
  • Fear is out of proportion to the actual threat presented by the situation
  • Fear or anxiety is not due to medication, medical condition, or substance abuse
  • Fear or anxiety is not better explained by another mental condition

Treating Social Anxiety Disorder

If you or someone you know is dealing with Social Anxiety Disorder, there is hope. There are a number of treatment options available to combat the issue of Social Anxiety Disorder. Here are a few of the treatment options at your disposal to get back to living a more worry-free life.


Psychotherapy in the form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly considered to be one of the most effective treatment options for Social Anxiety Disorder. This form of psychotherapy usually consists of several weekly sessions where a therapist may expose their client to situations known to trigger anxiety in order to introduce coping skills that can be used to overcome the social anxiety.


Medications may prove helpful in combating extreme social anxiety. The most commonly prescribed form of medication for Social Anxiety Disorder is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). Other medications shown to be helpful in combating Social Anxiety Disorder are benzodiazepines or beta-blockers.

Neurofeedback Therapy

Finally, another incredibly effective form of treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder is neurofeedback therapy. Neurofeedback is a form of brain enhancement and training proven to be helpful in teaching the brain to break out of involuntary habits that exacerbate the symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder.

In the neurofeedback therapy offered at BrainForest, we utilize qEEG technology to both identify and quantify brain activity most centered around the cause of Social Anxiety Disorder. Our professionals will then assist you in creating a personalized treatment plan that caters to your individual needs.

If you feel that you may suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder, contact BrainForest today to schedule your free consultation!