The National Institute of Mental Health advises that 15 million Americans are affected by Social Anxiety Disorder every year. This means that seven percent of the population is currently suffering, and 12 percent of the population is affected at least once in their lifetime. Social anxiety, otherwise known as a social phobia, can manifest itself in many different ways. Reported as an intense fear or panic, social phobia changes the way the person reacts to meeting new people, social situations, and dealing with crowds and public speaking.
While a mild case may just cause some nervousness, moderate to severe cases can affect the sufferer’s career, social life, family obligations, and health. This type of phobia is social in nature and is not to be confused with agoraphobia. Those with social phobia are not so much afraid of being outside as they are of social situations. Real-life examples of people suffering with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), are as varied and complex as the people living with it early day.
The careers of people with SAD are often affected. They are twice as likely to have a low household income than those who are deemed psychiatrically well, and are only one-fourth as likely to hold a professional position. After all, a person who is anxious about making business contacts, refuses to speak up at meetings, and is nervous to engage other employees in social activities or even conversation is far less likely to be hired or promoted. Even if hired, a sufferer may be terminated from their job if they fail to give an assigned presentation or have a panic attack in front of influential employees or clients. Some cases of SAD are so extreme that the sufferer is unable to find gainful employment whatsoever.
For many with SAD, a social life is either impossible or severely curtailed. People with SAD may not want to try new restaurants, attend sporting events, or even go out in public where strangers will be present. If the disorder is extreme, even meeting the new significant other of a dear friend may cause a panic attack. The person may be terrified of saying the wrong thing, may feel judged by the unknown person, or be afraid they will be criticized. It is not uncommon for SAD to be brushed off as low self-esteem by well-meaning friends and relatives, who may push the sufferer into additional situations that are agonizing the SAD-afflicted person.
Family obligations are almost always impacted when a member is suffering with SAD. Children may feel resentful if a beloved parent cannot attend their activities due to the enormous crowd of strangers present. Loved ones may feel abandoned when the sufferer refuses to come to their wedding, a funeral, or a baby’s christening. It is not uncommon for family and friends to take SAD personally, or blame the afflicted person for their inability to ‘snap out of it’ or ‘deal with it’ for their sake.
Finally, the health of a person dealing with SAD can be negatively influenced as well. If the sufferer is too self-conscious or frightened to see a physician, or even enter the office where others are present, they may never get the diagnosis they so desperately need. Conditions that are personal in nature, such as internal medicine, gynecologic issues, or bowel problems may be tolerated for far too long. The SAD sufferer may endure intense pain and discomfort to avoid going to the doctor or hospital, even if they know it is necessary.
Social anxiety impacts nearly every facet of the sufferer’s life. Whether it’s a missed opportunity at work, family trouble, or poor health, SAD is a disorder with multiple real-life examples that affects 12 out of every 100 individuals over the course of their lifetime.