Small Businesses Rule! Please Keep Them Alive!

Shop Indie Bookstores

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Please Could You Stop the Noise I'm Trying to Get Some Rest..."

Probably one of the most difficult struggles of my life has been that with social phobia. I have cowered in corners at the thought of having to attend a family gathering or an unerving setting that includes people who I consider my closest friends and loved ones... whereas strangers don't affect me. In fact, when in a room of strangers, I have always shined... one of the many facets of my personality has anyway. Generally it was a "just add alcohol or a substance du jour" and I would be fine; the life of the party...on stage.

Strange that family and loved ones would scare me into submission, right? Family... unconditional acceptance and all that jazz. Well, my mind... when it is overcome with this fog, feels that everyone is judging me...
a looming paranoid energy is everpresent and all-encompassing. It is miserable, and has led me into some very dark places. I don't like that "me," and even in my adulthood, pollywog in womb, still struggle with it on a daily basis.

Another manifestation of this "affliction" is phone paranoia. A ringing telephone, or the imnpending fear of hearing a reaction that I misconstrue as negative judgement or the like on the other end of the line submits me into this state, too. THIS has been the bane of my existence, for communication has become pretty limited. I have VERY patient friends and family who have learned to "accept" this about me, much to their chagrin. Text messaging and emailing have made distant communication possible.

This has been a major embarrassment for me for years; I feel it contradicts my independent nature... because it does! To me, it feels peculiar, nonsensical, and completely unjustifiable... because it is! But it is still there, like a bad, recurring dream. I have made progress (if you can call it that); I used to fabricate outlandish reasons as to why
I missed the party or the phone call, but this aspect has changed. I am honest with my family and loved ones now, which takes away some of the tension that my mind creates, but I am still trying, desperately, to overcome this debilitating entity (because to is tangible...and very REAL). Can you relate to this?

In my case, communicating this via writing is key, and an integral part of my struggle to overcome it. But for many, social phobia is as REAL as the nose on your face. It manifests itself in many different ways, and is detrimental to her/his psychi. Please, if you or someone you know may suffer from this affliction, look for warning signs before it spirals even further.

I'd like to share with you an informative and lengthy article published by The Mayo Clinic on Social Phobia. Please take the time to read this, and turn on your awareness:

"Social anxiety disorder — Comprehensive overview covers symptoms, treatments and coping skills.
It's normal to feel nervous in some social situations. Going on a date or giving a presentation may give you that feeling of having butterflies in your stomach, for instance. This isn't social anxiety disorder.

In social anxiety disorder, everyday interactions cause extreme fear and self-consciousness. It may become impossible for you to eat with acquaintances or write a check in public, let alone go to a party with lots of strangers. If your life is disrupted by this kind of fear, you may have social anxiety disorder.

If you or a loved one has social anxiety disorder, take heart. Effective treatment — often with cognitive behavioral therapy, medication and positive coping skills — can improve the symptoms of social anxiety disorder and open up new opportunities.

Social anxiety disorder is a chronic mental health condition that causes an irrational anxiety or fear of activities or situations in which you believe that others are watching you or judging you. You also fear that you'll embarrass or humiliate yourself.

Social anxiety disorder can have emotional, behavioral and physical signs and symptoms.

Emotional and behavioral signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:

Intense fear of being in situations in which you don't know people
Fear of situations in which you may be judged
Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
Fear that others will notice that you look anxious
Anxiety that disrupts your daily routine, work, school or other activities
Avoiding doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment
Avoiding situations where you might be the center of attention
Physical signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:

Profuse sweating
Trembling or shaking
Stomach upset
Difficulty talking
Shaky voice
Muscle tension
Cold, clammy hands
Difficulty making eye contact
You may also be affected by:

Low self-esteem
Trouble being assertive
Negative self-talk
Hypersensitivity to criticism
Poor social skills
Worrying about having symptoms

When you have social anxiety disorder, you realize that your anxiety or fear is out of proportion to the situation. Yet you're so worried about developing social anxiety disorder symptoms that you avoid situations that may trigger them. And indeed, just worrying about having any symptoms can cause them or make them worse.

When to see a doctor

If your fears or anxieties don't really bother you, you may not need treatment. For instance, you may not like making speeches but you do so anyway without being overwhelmed by anxiety.

What sets social anxiety disorder apart from everyday nervousness is that its symptoms are much more severe and last much longer. If social anxiety disorder disrupts your life, causes you distress and affects your daily activities, call your doctor.

Common, everyday experiences that may be difficult to endure when you have social anxiety disorder include:

Using a public restroom or telephone
Returning items to a store
Interacting with strangers
Writing in front of others
Making eye contact
Entering a room in which people are already seated
Ordering food in a restaurant
Being introduced to strangers
Initiating conversations

Social anxiety disorder symptoms can change over time. They may flare up if you're facing a lot of stress or demands. Or if you completely avoid situations that would usually make you anxious, you may not have symptoms. Although avoidance may allow you to feel better in the short term, your anxiety is likely to persist over the long term if you don't get treatment.

Like many other mental health conditions, social anxiety disorder likely arises from a complex interaction of environment and genes. Researchers continue to study possible causes, including:

Genes. Researchers are seeking specific genes that play a role in anxiety and fear. Social anxiety disorder seems to run in families. But evidence suggests that the hereditary component of this condition is due at least in part to anxious behavior learned from other family members.

Biochemistry. Researchers are exploring the idea that natural chemicals in your body may play a role in social anxiety disorder. For instance, an imbalance in the brain chemical serotonin (ser-oh-TOE-nin) could be a factor. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, helps regulate mood and emotions, among other things. People with social anxiety disorder may be extra-sensitive to the effects of serotonin.

Fear responses. Some research suggests that a structure in the brain called the amygdala (uh-MIG-duh-luh) may play a role in controlling the fear response. People who have an overactive amygdala may have a heightened fear response, causing increased anxiety in social situations.

Risk factors
Social anxiety disorder is one of the most common of all mental disorders. Between 3 and 13 percent of people in Western countries experience social anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Social anxiety disorder usually begins in the early to midteens, although it can sometimes begin earlier in childhood or in adulthood.

A number of factors can increase the risk of developing social anxiety disorder, including:

Your sex. Women are more likely to have social anxiety disorder.
Family history. Some research indicates that you're more likely to develop social anxiety disorder if your biological parents or siblings have the condition.

Environment. Some experts theorize that social anxiety disorder is a learned behavior. That is, you may develop the condition after witnessing the anxious behavior of others. In addition, there may be an association between social anxiety disorder and parents who are more controlling or protective of their children.

Negative experiences. Children who experience teasing, bullying, rejection, ridicule or humiliation may be more prone to social anxiety disorder. In addition, other negative events in life, such as family conflict or sexual abuse, may be associated with social anxiety disorder.

Temperament. Children who are shy, timid, withdrawn or restrained when facing new situations or people may be at greater risk.
New social or work demands. Meeting new people, giving a speech in public or making an important work presentation may trigger social anxiety disorder symptoms for the first time. These symptoms usually have their roots in adolescence, however.

Left untreated, social anxiety disorder can be debilitating. Your anxieties may run your life. They can interfere with work, school, relationships or enjoyment of life. You may be considered an "underachiever," when in reality it's your fears holding you back from excelling. In severe cases, you may drop out of school, quit work or lose friendships.

Social anxiety disorder can also lead to other health problems, such as:

Substance abuse
Excessive drinking
Preparing for your appointment
If common social or public activities cause extreme fear of embarrassing or humiliating yourself, call your doctor. After your initial appointment, your doctor may refer you to a mental health provider who can help make a firm diagnosis and create the right treatment plan for you.

Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

Write down any symptoms you've been experiencing, and for how long. Social anxiety disorder often first appears in your teens. Your doctor will be interested to hear how your symptoms may have waxed or waned since they began.

Write down your key personal information, especially any significant events or changes in your life shortly before your symptoms appeared. For example, your doctor will want to know if your social anxiety seemed to be triggered by a promotion, meeting new people, or another new work or social demand.

Write down all of your medical information, including other physical or mental health conditions with which you've been diagnosed. Also write down the names of any medications you're taking.

Ask a trusted family member or friend to be present for your appointment, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to soak up all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.

Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Questions to ask your doctor at your initial appointment include:

What do you believe is causing my symptoms?
Are there any other possible causes?
How will you determine my diagnosis?
Should I see a mental health specialist?
Questions to ask if you are referred to a mental health provider include:

Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
Are effective treatments available for this condition?
With treatment, could I eventually be comfortable in the situations that make me so anxious now?
Am I at increased risk of other mental health problems?
Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What Web sites do you recommend visiting?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared in advance, don't hesitate to ask for more information at any time that you don't understand something.

What to expect from your doctor
A doctor or mental health provider who sees you for possible social anxiety disorder may ask:

Does fear of embarrassment cause you to avoid doing things or speaking to people?
Do you avoid activities in which you are the center of attention?
Would you say that being embarrassed or looking stupid is among your worst fears?
When did you first notice these symptoms?
When are your symptoms most likely to occur?
Does anything seem to make your symptoms better or worse?
How are your symptoms affecting your life, including your work and personal relationships?
Do you ever have symptoms when you're not being observed by others?
Have any of your close relatives had similar symptoms?
Have you been diagnosed with any medical conditions?
Have you been treated for other psychiatric symptoms or mental illness in the past? If yes, what type of therapy was most beneficial?
Have you ever thought about harming yourself or others?
Do you drink alcohol or use illicit drugs? If so, how often?
Tests and diagnosis
When you decide to seek treatment for symptoms of possible social anxiety disorder, you may have both a physical and psychological evaluation. The physical exam can determine if there may be any physical causes triggering your symptoms.

There's no laboratory test to diagnose social anxiety disorder, however. Your doctor or mental health provider will ask you to describe your signs and symptoms, how often they occur and in what situations. He or she may review a list of situations to see if they make you anxious or have you fill out psychological questionnaires or self-assessments to help pinpoint a diagnosis.

To be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, a person must meet criteria spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association and is used by mental health providers to diagnose mental conditions and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.

Criteria for social anxiety disorder to be diagnosed include:

A persistent fear of social situations in which you believe you may be scrutinized or act in a way that's embarrassing or humiliating
These social situations cause you a great deal of anxiety
You recognize that your anxiety level is excessive or out of proportion for the situation
You avoid anxiety-producing social situations
Your anxiety or distress interferes with your daily living
Treatments and drugs
Social anxiety disorder typically persists for life, often waxing and waning. But don't lose hope. Treatment can help you control symptoms and become more confident and relaxed in social situations.

The two most effective types of treatment are medications and a form of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy. These two approaches are often used in combination.

Cognitive behavioral therapy improves symptoms in up to 75 percent of people with social anxiety disorder. This type of therapy is based on the idea that your own thoughts — not other people or situations — determine how you behave or react. Even if an unwanted situation won't change — you still have to give a presentation to management, for instance — you can change the way you think and behave in a positive way. In therapy, you learn how to recognize and change negative thoughts about yourself.

Cognitive behavioral therapy may also include exposure therapy. In this type of therapy, you gradually work up to facing the situations you fear most. This allows you to become better skilled at coping with these anxiety-inducing situations and to develop the confidence to face them. You may also participate in skills training or role-playing to practice your social skills and gain comfort and confidence relating to others. Relaxation or stress management techniques may be included in your treatment plan.

First choices in medications
Several types of medications are used to treat social anxiety disorder. However, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are generally considered the safest and most effective treatment for persistent symptoms of social anxiety. SSRIs your doctor may prescribe include:

Paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR)
Sertraline (Zoloft)
Fluvoxamine (Luvox, Luvox CR)
Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem, others)
The serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) drug venlafaxine (Effexor, Effexor XR) also may be used as a first-line therapy for social anxiety disorder.

To reduce the risk of side effects, your doctor will start you at a low dose of medication and gradually increase your prescription to a full dose. It may take up to three months of treatment for your symptoms to noticeably improve.

Other medication options
Your doctor or mental health provider may also prescribe other medications for symptoms of social anxiety, including:

Other antidepressants. You may have to try several different antidepressants to find which one is the most effective and has the fewest unpleasant side effects.
Anti-anxiety medications. A type of anti-anxiety medication called benzodiazepines (ben-zo-di-AZ-uh-penes) may reduce your level of anxiety. Although they often work quickly, they can be habit-forming. Because of that, they're often prescribed for only short-term use. They may also be sedating.
Beta blockers. These medications work by blocking the stimulating effect of epinephrine (adrenaline). They may reduce heart rate, blood pressure, pounding of the heart, and shaking voice and limbs. Because of that, they may work best when used infrequently to control symptoms for a particular situation, such as giving a speech. They're not recommended for general treatment of social anxiety disorder.
Stick with it
Don't give up if treatment doesn't work quickly. You can continue to make strides in therapy over several weeks or months. And remember that finding the right medication for your situation can take some trial and error.

For some people, the symptoms of social anxiety disorder may fade over time, and medication can be discontinued. Others may need to take medication for years to prevent a relapse.

Lifestyle and home remedies
Although social anxiety disorder generally requires help from a medical expert or qualified psychotherapist, you can try some self-help techniques to handle situations likely to trigger social anxiety disorder symptoms.

First, assess your fears to identify what situations cause the most anxiety. Then gradually practice these activities until they cause you less anxiety. You may need to begin with small steps in situations that aren't overwhelming.

Situations to practice may include:

Eating with a close relative, friend or acquaintance in a public setting.
Making eye contact and returning greetings from others, or being the first to say hello.
Giving someone a compliment.
Asking a retail clerk to help you find an item.
Getting directions from a stranger.
Showing an interest in others. Ask about their homes, children, grandchildren, hobbies or travels, for instance.
Calling a friend to make plans.
At first being social when you are feeling anxious is challenging. As difficult or painful as it may seem initially, don't avoid situations that trigger your symptoms. By regularly facing these kinds of situations, you'll continue to build and reinforce your coping skills.

The following techniques can help you begin to face situations that make you nervous. Practicing these techniques regularly can help you manage or reduce your anxiety.

Prepare for conversation. For instance, read the newspaper to identify an interesting story you can talk about.
Focus on personal qualities you like about yourself.
Practice relaxation exercises.
Adopt stress management techniques.
Set realistic goals.
Pay attention to how often the embarrassing situations you're afraid of actually take place. You may notice that the scenarios you fear usually don't come to pass.
When embarrassing situations do happen, remind yourself that your feelings will pass, and you can handle them until they do.
In addition, be sure to keep your medical or therapy appointments, take medications as directed, and talk to your doctor about any changes in your condition.

Coping and support
Coping with social anxiety disorder can be challenging. Having social anxiety disorder can make it difficult for you to go to work or school, to interact with other people, or even to visit the doctor. But maintaining connections and building relationships are key ways to help cope with any mental disorder.

Over time, treatment can help you feel more comfortable, relaxed and confident in the presence of others. In the meantime, don't use alcohol or illicit drugs to try to get through an event or situation that makes you anxious.

Some positive coping methods include:

Reaching out to people with whom you feel comfortable
Joining a support group
Engaging in pleasurable activities, such as exercise or hobbies, when you feel anxious
Getting enough sleep
Eating a well-balanced diet
Over time, doing this can help control your symptoms and prevent a relapse. Remind yourself that you can get through anxious moments, that your anxiety is short-lived, and that the negative consequences you worry about so much rarely come to pass."

Download of the Day - "OK Computer" - RADIOHEAD (The album in its entirety.)

The First time I hear "Paranoid Android"... I felt a remarkable kinship; it is a symphony! (If you look closely at the collage on the front of "Dear Prudence," my debut novel... you will see a "dedication" to RADIOHEAD, their genius... and "Paranoid Android.")
(Check out the self-help read that I recommend, top right margin... and please don't forget to check out
"...from all the unborn chicken voices in my head."
xo Amanda

No comments:

Post a Comment