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Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as social phobia, is a long-term mental health issue. It affects millions in the U.S., says the National Institute of Mental Health.
On one end of the scale, there is “normal” nervousness. Maybe how you feel speaking before a crowd, going on a first date or starting a new job. On the other end, there is having a full-blown panic attack. Social anxiety disorder lies somewhere in between, where normal day-to-day events can become paralyzing.
People with social anxiety can have some of these symptoms:
Social anxiety can be selective. If it’s in one area, like public speaking, it might not be a big problem. But if it’s worrying about eating or drinking in public, it may be debilitating. Luckily, it can be managed with professional therapy, self-help or medication.
If you suffer from anxiety, know that you are not alone. Your best plan of action is to learn about it. Don’t think you’re just shy. Talk to a mental health professional. Just like asthma or any other health problem, your anxiety can be managed. Things can be different with just a little help.
If someone you love suffers from this health problem, don’t give up on them. They need you to know that they are not weak and would prefer to face things as others do. Don’t judge them. Be patient and understanding. And just be there for them.
Originally published: June 10, 2015; Revised 2020, 2022
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