is social anxiety a disability

Is Social Anxiety Considered a Disability?

Being nervous when giving a speech in front of an audience is one thing. But can intense, social anxiety be a disability?

For most of us, there have been moments in our lives where we felt judged or ridiculed in a public setting. Those events might still be seared our memories. We are all sensitive when it comes to being harshly critiqued or embarrassed by peers or colleagues.

Sometimes, social anxiety becomes so bad it can impair functioning. Those who suffer from the disorder might hide away and avoid all social events due to these irrational fears. This can hurt careers, relationships, and overall quality of life. It is in this way that social anxiety becomes disabling.

When social anxiety becomes extreme, it hinders your daily life in many ways. For some, this may mean being unable to even go to work and earn a living. In some cases, the person may even qualify for SSA disability support.

What Is Social Anxiety?

About 15 million adults in the U.S. struggle with social anxiety disorder, sometimes called social phobia. This mental health issue features an irrational fear of being humiliated in public. Because of that extreme fear, social anxiety places limits on life, as those who have a severe form will isolate.

Because people will manage their social anxiety through avoidance, the long-term effects of this mental health challenge can be huge. Career prospects will be missed, due to fear of mixing with colleagues; they may not apply for a better job. New relationships are avoided, due to fear of being rejected or judged.

When someone struggles with social anxiety, they feel intense anxiety symptoms throughout their days. The lack of confidence in themselves and their skills causes them to freeze up. If the person must be present at a work event, the anxiety symptoms that result could become debilitating.

Symptoms of social anxiety include:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Nausea
  • Intense fear in advance of a coming social event.
  • Fear of being humiliated in public.
  • Extreme fear of being judged by others.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Sweating
  • Blushes easily
  • Feeling dizzy and off balance.
  • Trembling
  • Feeling faint.

While no direct cause of social anxiety is known, there are some risk factors that are observed. These include:

  • Early trauma. If the person has a history of trauma, more so if it involved being humiliated in public.
  • Childhood neglect. Children who have been neglected, abused, or socially isolated have heightened risk.
  • Biological. Brain scans reveal that people with social anxiety have increased blood flow in the limbic region.
  • Genetic. If a close family member also struggles with social anxiety or any anxiety disorder this increases the risk.
  • Brain chemistry. Those with social anxiety disorder have similar neurotransmitter imbalances as those who have agoraphobia and panic disorder.

What is Cave Syndrome?

The pandemic has added to social anxiety. The long months of being cooped up at home, many people alone with no one with them, took a toll. Combined with constant fear-based news reports about covid cases and deaths, a new syndrome called “cave syndrome” has emerged.

Cave syndrome is a type of social anxiety that is seen after covid restrictions were lifted. Some people were not feeling assured that they would be safe mixing with others. They experience the symptoms of anxiety when going out and may even resist leaving their home. Now life has almost returned to normal, with people going back to work and socializing. But there is anxiety around it for some people, as fear of covid lingers.

Tips for Overcoming Social Anxiety

There are steps to take that can help you manage social anxiety when it rears up. These actions can also complement the traditional therapy that is recommended to help manage the disorder:

  1. Anticipate feeling anxious. If you assume you will feel anxious at an event, make a plan in advance to respond. Practice in the mirror making eye contact, smiling, extending your hand, or giving a compliment. You will be better prepared.
  2. Check your body language. Make a mental note of your body language at an event. Are you staring at the floor, have arms crossed in front, or refuse to smile? Correct these and become more approachable and engaged.
  3. Meditation. Guided imagery tracks, available online, can reduce stress prior to attending a social event. These scripts walk the person through a process of mental imaging that helps them achieve a calm mood state.
  4. Change your mindset. You are likely quite adept at making excuses to get out of social events. When it’s an event you cannot wiggle out of, you might attend it with a negative mindset. Try to switch your thoughts to the positives and your attitude with follow.
  5. Face down the source of your social anxiety. For many people, intense shyness and avoidance of social settings is a product of childhood experiences. It helps to notice this connection because it can be freeing for people with social anxiety.
  6. Don’t let fear hold you captive. Don’t let fear and dread hold you captive to a life of isolation. Instead, let your mind take control over these feelings. Ask yourself what is the very worst thing that can happen. See the anxiety as an obstacle to be pushed past, not as an anvil that crushes you.

How To Overcome Social Anxiety

What do you do when these tips don’t reduce the anxiety when out in public or at a social event? If there is no relief from the social anxiety, getting help from a mental health expert is key. There are effective therapies, such as CBT and exposure therapy, that can teach coping skills.

Is social anxiety a disability? Well, based on the common understanding of what disabled means, yes. Being disabled means your day-to-day functioning is impaired, which extreme social anxiety can cause. When all your efforts do not help, then your therapist might be able to help you sign up for SSA disability. Reach out for help today.

Palm Springs Behavioral Health Provides Treatment for Anxiety Disorder

Palm Springs Behavioral Health offers help for those who suffer from social anxiety disability. Our kind staff will gently guide you toward improved self-confidence with new coping skills. For more info about our program, contact us today at (888) 312-4262.