Collaboration is a skill in great demand. New couples learn to consider the needs of others, sometimes for the first time in their lives. Sports teams learn special words that aid in quick communication, but not necessarily collaboration. Collaboration requires two-way communication, a discussion of shared meanings, with more listening then talking, shared inspirational visions, and shared decisions. Notice just how much sharing is going on between all participants. In the eight elements of teamwork required in high-performance teams, a collaborative environment is essential.
In the collaborative medicine approach, collaboration is also important. One of the roadblocks preventing effective collaboration between team members is anxiety. We all experience fear, anxiety, or discomfort about being embarrassed, humiliated, rejected or looked down on in social interactions at some point. This anxiety normally can be addressed, and members move on as they learn they can trust each other. But in some cases, this is more difficult.
This anxiety only becomes a disorder when we try to avoid the situation or endure it with great effort. Common examples are extreme fear of public speaking, meeting new people or eating/drinking in public, and trying to collaborate with strangers we’re intimidated by. We might feel we’ll be unfairly judged. When the fear or anxiety causes problems with daily functioning and lasts at least six months it’s thought of as a social anxiety disorder and might need to be addressed by special treatment.
Social anxiety disorder is an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others. This fear can affect work, school, and other daily activities. It can even make it hard to make and keep friends. In a collaborative medicine environment, it can even impact our medical treatment. The good news is social anxiety disorder is treatable. We all should learn more about the symptoms of social anxiety disorder and how to find help.
What is social anxiety disorder?
Social anxiety disorder is a common type of anxiety disorder. A person with social anxiety disorder feels symptoms of anxiety or fear in situations where they may be scrutinized, evaluated, or judged by others, such as speaking in public, meeting new people, dating, being on a job interview, answering a question in class or on a team, or even having to talk to a cashier in a store. Doing everyday things, such as eating or drinking in front of others or using a public restroom, also may cause anxiety or fear due to concerns about being humiliated, judged, and rejected.
The fear that people with social anxiety disorder have in social situations is so intense that they feel it is beyond their control. For some people, this fear may get in the way of going to work, attending school, or doing everyday things. Other people may be able to accomplish these activities but experience a great deal of fear or anxiety when they do. People with social anxiety disorder may worry about engaging in social situations for weeks before they happen. Sometimes, they end up avoiding places or events that cause distress or generate feelings of embarrassment.
Some people with this disorder do not have anxiety related to social interactions but have it during performances instead. They feel symptoms of anxiety in situations such as giving a speech, competing in a sports game, or playing a musical instrument on stage.
Social anxiety disorder usually starts during late childhood and may resemble extreme shyness or avoidance of situations or social interactions. It occurs more frequently in females than in males, and this gender difference is more pronounced in adolescents and young adults. Without treatment, social anxiety disorder can last for many years, or even a lifetime.
What are the signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder?
When having to perform in front of or be around others, people with social anxiety disorder may:
- Blush, sweat, or tremble.
- Have a rapid heart rate.
- Feel their “mind going blank,” or feel sick to their stomach.
- Have a rigid body posture or speak with an overly soft voice.
- Find it difficult to make eye contact, be around people they don’t know, or talk to people in social situations, even when they want to.
- Feel self-consciousness or fear that people will judge them negatively.
- Avoid places where there are other people.
What causes social anxiety disorder?
Risk for social anxiety disorder may run in families, but no one knows for sure why some family members have it while others don’t. Researchers have found that several parts of the brain are involved in fear and anxiety and that genetics influences how these areas function. By studying how the brain and body interact in people with social anxiety disorder, researchers may be able to create more targeted treatments. In addition, researchers are looking at the ways stress and environmental factors play a role in this disorder.
How can I support myself and others with social anxiety disorder?
A good way to help yourself or a loved one who may be struggling with social anxiety disorder is to seek information. Research the warning signs, learn about treatment options, and keep up to date with current research.
If you are experiencing social anxiety disorder symptoms, have an honest conversation about how you’re feeling with someone you trust. If you think that a friend or family member may be struggling with social anxiety disorder, set aside a time to talk with them to express your concern and reassure them of your support. Relationships of trust are critical here, and if you’re experiencing a social anxiety disorder, this may prove to be difficult.
Know When to Seek Help
If your anxiety, or the anxiety of a loved one, starts to cause problems in everyday life—such as avoiding social situations at school, at work, or with friends and family—it’s time to seek professional help. Talk to your Health Guardian, or another health care provider about your mental health.