Many of us experience social situations that cause us anxiety. For some, meeting new people is a challenge. For others, just walking into a room full of strangers is uncomfortable. Because we like to avoid discomfort, most of us try to develop workarounds that allow us to be out in the world and forming new relationships.
When the anxiety begins to keep us from activities, interfere with work, or prevent us from participating in social gatherings, it may be time to look more closely at our social phobia, understand it and get help.
Social Anxiety Disorder
For the purposes of this discussion, it is good to have a sense for what an actual diagnosis of social anxiety disorder looks like, so we can better assess our own symptoms and determine whether or not we should seek the assistance of a mental health counselor. The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition), describes Social Anxiety Disorder as follows:
- Marked fear or anxiety about one or more social situations in which the individual is exposed to possible scrutiny by others. Examples include social interactions (e.g. – having a conversation, meeting unfamiliar people), being observed (e.g. – eating or drinking), and performing in front of other (e.g. – giving a ...
In my practice, individuals coming in with traumas make up a significant portion of those I see. In fact, many people coming in with depression and/or anxiety are experiencing this as a result of trauma, often without even realizing it.
Trauma can take many different forms. For many, when we think of the effects of trauma we think of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This collection of symptoms first gained major attention after World War I and II, with many veterans showing difficulty readjusting to “regular” life.
At the time, we called this “Shell Shock,” and over the years the hallmark symptoms of PTSD, such as flashbacks, intense anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and nightmares, have been given different labels, but the underlying process remains the same.
However, trauma can come from a variety of origins, not just war. We might think of domestic traumas as things like being a part of or witnessing a major accident, death, or significantly terrifying life event. While these might feel like “flashbulb” incidents -- bright, vivid memories that are engrained in our memory, just like how a flashbulb allows for an image to be engrained on film -- trauma can come from a “slow burn” as well.
This can look like an abusive relationship or living in a high...
Anxiety is an emotion we all experience. We can all point to a time when we got butterflies in our stomach before giving an important presentation or going on a promising first date. We can all remember worrying about bills that are due, getting our Christmas shopping list done, or completing that task list that seems to have gotten a mile long.
In a way, it is good that we have some levels of anxiety – without any anxiety we would feel perfectly content and complacent, never getting anything done! Anxiety is the way we have adapted to take care of sick loved ones or our own well-being.
Did you see the movie Inside Out? In that movie, the mind of a little girl was “controlled” by her emotions: anger, fear, joy, sadness, and disgust. Throughout the course of the movie, we see different emotions taking over her “control panel,” causing her to act out in different ways. Then at the end of the movie, a much more complex control panel is brought in and replaces the old one as she hits puberty.
While a cute demonstration, in some ways this is exactly how our minds work. Our thoughts and actions tend to filter through a sea of emotions, working in balance with each other. However, trouble arises when one emotion tends to override the rest and take complete c...
“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” – Deuteronomy 31:8
Depression is one of the more common psychological struggles a person can experience in a lifetime. According to ADAA.org, “MDD [Major Depressive Disorder] affects more than 16.1 million American adults, or about 6.7% of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.”
“In 2015, an estimated 3 million adolescents age 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the previous year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.”
While depression can feel like a very isolating, lonely experience, the fact is, many people have or will experience some form of depression in their lifetime. Anything from a divorce, the loss of a loved one, exposure to traumatic events, or other kinds of emotional or physical harm can lead to feelings of hopelessness.
The good news is that you’re not alone, and because this type of feeling can be so common, there is a lot of research dedicated to providing you with support.
“The smartest thing I’ve ever learned is I don’t have all the answers, just a little ligh...
More than any other addiction, sex addiction has the most potential to dial up shame. This is what can make it so hard to talk about, and therefore too often it stays hidden.
Unfortunately, as they say in 12-step programs, we are only as sick as our secrets. What this means is when we do things we know are wrong and then hide those behaviors from our loved ones, we gradually poison our soul, and the longer we wait, the worse it is when our behavior comes to light. The good news is that God does not think we are disgusting or hopeless. We are loved and worthy of redemption, no matter what.
Understanding Sexual Response
Our bodies are created with the capacity for sexual response, and at the physical level that response is involuntary. People in scientific studies who are shown photos of animals mating often respond with disgust, but almost without exception their bodies display the physical attributes of arousal. This is important to understand when beginning to think about addiction.
We are created to be in relationship, to bond, to join, to procreate, and these needs are interwoven with our deepest emotions of hope (to be seen, known, and loved as we are) and fear (that we will be judged, found inadequate, and be rejected). Addictive behaviors are activated by t...
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28
These words of Christ reach out and beckon our anxious souls toward a mysterious and perfect peace. And yet, for many people suffering from crippling anxiety, the “rest” promised in this passage feels just out of reach.
Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in America today. Multiple studies have shown that ever since the 1930s (the era known as the Great Depression), people in America have reported feeling increasingly anxious. Levels of anxiety today are higher than they have ever been in our nation. Perhaps you are currently experiencing the devastating effects of anxiety in your own life or in the life of a loved one. If so, read on.
Symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder
Counselors look for several symptoms in order to identify an anxiety disorder.
Ask yourself whether you or someone close to you is experiencing the following:
- Excessive worry almost every day
- Difficulty controlling worries or fears
- Restlessness or feeling on-edge
- Easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mind going blank
- Excessive irritability
You may find it strange to hear that anxiety is a surprisingly complex emotion with many possible causes and manifestations. If you’ve lived with anxiety for a long time and never asked yourself about it, it may seem like just the way you are, a simple state of being.
Anxiety is not our normal state, however. It has causes and symptoms that can be addressed, and can be reduced and managed over time. We don’t have to just accept it.
Like pain, anxiety is intended to be a beneficial, healthy part of our normal function. You have probably heard of the "fight or flight" response. This is our sympathetic nervous system telling us what to do in a crisis.
Imagine walking into a dark room in your basement. Out of the corner of your eye you catch a glimpse of an animal shape on a shelf at eye level, the perfect spot from which to pounce on unsuspecting prey. You hastily flip on the light and are greeted by the sight of your beloved stuffed teddy bear.
In that moment between the glimpse and flipping on the light, your body went into high alert, adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormone) pumping, readying your body to either run for it, or grapple with the beast to the death.
When the absence of a threat was revealed, the first thing you did was take a de...