Remember that time you walked into a quiet room and unintentionally became ~that person~ making the loudest noise? Be it a meeting, an exam, or even a movie theatre. Your body flushed with embarrassment, humiliation, maybe even guilt?
Maybe you felt a wave of heat overcome your body, you worried whether everyone could see your face flush red or the sweat beginning to build on your underarms; within seconds every sense in your body switched on to how you were suddenly very recognisable amongst the crowd. You were overcome with this idea that everyone in the space was watching you, casting judgement, and feeling irritated with you for being ~that person~ causing the disruption. Maybe you wanted to hide at that point, or run back through the door; maybe a part of you had wished you’d never arrived in the first place? You sat down though, maybe you apologised for causing the disruption, and then you continued about your normal day.
That worry? The facial flushing? The feeling of your heartbeat in your ears? It was fleeting, and now maybe you chuckle about the memory of that moment.
That feeling though, it isn’t fleeting for everyone. People who live with social phobia, also known as social anxiety disorder, is something they feel most of the time- regardless of whether they’re being the loudest person in the quietest room or not.
People who have social anxiety disorder often feel anxious in social settings on a level of which is disruptive to their everyday lives; they can feel uncontrollably more anxious than others, such as those who get a bit nervous presenting in front of a crowd. Often, people can feel so anxious that many avoid social interactions entirely; even typically mundane and common practices like eating at a restaurant. For people who sit on the extreme end of the spectrum these practices aren’t just mildly nerve-provoking, they’re situations which provoke a lump-in-your-throat anxious feeling, they’re terrifying, and can both be connected to, or cause, real physical symptoms such as blushing, trembling, crying, stammering and stumbling of speech to uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhoea.
Maya Zerman, Director of Strategies and Operations at Epworth Clinic in Camberwell says that “logic checking” is an imperative skill and one that can be developed with help if need be, and ultimately focuses on self-soothing management; giving yourself the ability to recognise the reality of the perceived danger.
GP’s can refer you on for further support to a psychiatrist; who can assist in the management and treatment of the condition. Treatment plans may include prescribed medication, psychotherapy or a combination. GPs can also help through writing a referral for a mental health clinician or a psychiatrist, if they believe it’ll benefit you. The above is a list of common options for treatment and management, however, it’s important to recognise there is no quick fix. GPs, medications, and mental health professionals are there to help you through the process with the end goal of helping you to feel safe, secure, happy and healthy. No one case is alike, and they will work with you to find the best option- they’re on your team. Recognising that it’s okay to ask for help, and accepting that help, is as equally important as it is to offer to be of support to someone going through mental ill-health; it might not always feel like it but you aren’t, and you’re not alone.
Maya works at the Epworth Clinic, which specialises in helping patients improve their mental health and their sense of wellbeing. The clinic holds experience within treating, and also helping to build tailored management techniques for a range of mental health conditions.
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