There is a condition in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders known as social phobia. Social phobia, a term used in DSM-IV, is now known as social anxiety disorder as contained in DSM-V. This change has been necessitated by the need to capture the broad scope of the condition. And this recent change reflects that new understanding of the subject matter (Mellings and Alden, 2000).
Before now, the primary understanding of social phobia is the uneasy and extremely discomforting feeling an individual may experience while performing in public. This definition has been judged too narrow by expert researchers. DSM-5 has brought a new dimension to the issue such that social anxiety may be diagnosed in individuals who respond to social situations in a variety of ways (Mellings and Alden, 2000).
For example, a person may find it very uncomfortable engaging in conversation with others, especially those he does not know. A woman who is always anxious about people watching her may not be able to eat in public since she's afraid of people watching while she eats and drinks (Mellings and Alden, 2000).
Definition of Social Phobia
Social phobia has been defined as the fear that others will judge and embarrass someone for behaving the way they do. And this fear is sometimes so strong to the extent that it affects everything the person does on daily basis (Chen et al., 2000).
No one can say he has not felt embarrassed or anxious at a time in his life. Delivering a speech in the public or meeting new people has the tendency to make a person nervous. However, the difference is that those suffering from social phobia get worried about all of these and so many other things for many weeks before the time (Chen et al., 2000).
Those suffering from social phobia are usually afraid of doing little things in public. For instance, such a person might be tensed to sign a check in the presence of a cashier at a supermarket; or they might fear to dine out, or even make use of a public convenience room. Many of those who are suffering from this condition know they should not be afraid the way they are, but they seem to be unable to control what they feel. Often times, they shy away from attending functions because they feel they might get embarrassed when they act. Some people have this problem only in certain occasions, but there are others who display these symptoms in nearly every social scenario (Chen et al., 2000).
Social phobia normally takes root at the stage of youthfulness. A doctor diagnoses social phobia if the symptoms have persisted for about six months. If this problem is not taken care of properly, it can last for several years or even a lifetime (Chen et al., 2000).
The signs and symptoms of social phobia
Those suffering from social phobia usually exhibit the following traits:
Are very anxious and afraid of having company and especially talking to people, even though they would have love to Are always very conscious of all their actions in public and usually feel embarrassed
Fear that people will continuously judge them
Are anxious and worry for several days and even weeks before an event takes place
Shy away from public places
Find it hard to make friends and keep them
Blush, tremble, sweat, or become generally uncomfortable in front of other people
Have nauseous feelings when in the company of other people (Chen et al., 2000).
Causes of Social Phobia
Social phobia is said to be hereditary, but sometimes people become unsure why everyone does not have it. Experts have discovered that some parts of the brain play a big role in the anxiety and fear that people do feel. By studying the contribution the brain makes to anxiety and fear, researchers may come up with better treatments. They are also trying to connect environmental factors and stress to the problem of social phobia (Harevy et al., 2000).
Treatment of social phobia
The doctor should be the first point of call. He will carry out a test to ascertain the nature of the problem and be sure that other health or physical problems are not responsible for the behavioral traits. He may then refer you to a specialist in mental health (Harevy et al., 2000). This health condition is usually treated with medication, psychotherapy, or both (Harevy et al., 2000).
The most useful type psychotherapy used for the treatment of social phobia is the cognitive behavior therapy. It exposes a person to different ways of behaving, thinking, and reacting to certain situations that will help reduce the fear and anxiety he feels. Through this method, people can also get to acquire different social skills (Harevy et al., 2000).
Sometimes, doctors prescribe medicationsthat will help treat social phobia. Among the drugs prescribed for this condition, the most common ones are antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills. Anti-anxiety pills are of different types and are very powerful. They have immediate effect but should not be taken for a long time (Harevy et al., 2000).
Antidepressants are primarily used to fight depression, but can also help in the treatment of social phobia. And they are more prescribed for social phobia than are anti-anxiety pills. However, antidepressants usually begin to take effect after several weeks of intake. Common side effects are nausea, headache, and difficulty in sleeping. Usually, side effects such as these are not bothersome for a larger group of people, and is mostly minimal when people begin with very low dosage. You are advised to discuss the side effects you have with your doctor (Clark, 2000).
The most effective antidepressant for the treatment of social phobia is monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). However, it has been discovered that the combination of MAOIs with certain some foods and medicines causes dangerous side effects (Clark, 2000).
Bear in mind that, though antidepressants are effective and safe for some groups of people, it is particularly risky for children, teenagers, and young adults. The label of antidepressants now carry "the black box" - the most serious sign of warning. The labels have warnings that antidepressants can generate suicidal thoughts or lead to suicidal attempts (Clark, 2000). And so those who are on antidepressant medications need to be watched closely, more so at the beginning of the treatment (Clark, 2000).
There is another kind of medication which helps to control some of the symptoms of social phobia. Beta-blockers keep shaking, excessive sweating, and the speed of heartbeat in check. They are commonly used to address issues of social phobia which occur in particular situations, such as stage fright (Clark, 2000).
In all of these treatment methods, some person may respond better to the cognitive behavior therapy while others will quickly overcome social phobia with medications. Nevertheless, there are some who obtain good results by combining the two treatment methods. Your doctor will advise you on the approach most suitable for your case.
Diagnostic Criteria Changes
It has been discovered that social anxiety disorder, apart from being more than shyness, can get to the point of disability. In this case, the person's anxiety or fearhas to be out of proportion to the situation, in terms of frequency and duration. The symptoms must persist and last longer than six months. DSM-IV requires that timeframe for children only, but in DSM-5, this diagnostic measure includes adults also. If the symptoms do not last that long, it is taken to mean that the feeling of anxiety and fear is a transient experience for that individual, and hence temporary (Hirsch and Matthews, 2000).
Anyone who is diagnosed of social anxiety disorder must have suffered impairment or significant distress which affects his normal routine social environment. DSM-IV expects that the individual knows that his…