1. What Does Social Anxiety Feel Like?

    December 2, 2013

    What Does Social Anxiety Feel Like?

    Social anxiety is a growing problem in the United States. More and more people are becoming diagnosed with this disorder. It is definitely not a made-up disorder. Many people may think it’s “no big deal,” but it is a huge deal to those that are diagnosed with it. It is no mild feeling of uncomfort like many people think of it as. It is extremely stressful to the person that is diagnosed with it, and it can have a huge impact on their daily lives. Social anxiety is something that needs to be addressed and taken seriously.


    Variable Between People

    First of all, social anxiety is extremely variable between people. For some people, social anxiety could only occur when there is a large group of people (50+ people). Others may notice panic attacks when going to the grocery store to pick up groceries. For others, it could be when having a conversation with a couple people. Others could even have anxious or nervous thoughts about picking up the telephone and calling the mechanics shop to see if their car is fixed. Social anxiety varies in types and severities from person to person, but it provides a great amount of stress to all of the people that have it.


    Daily Struggle

    People with social anxiety struggle with their feelings every day. These feelings can take control over their lives. They can seemingly smother their lives by affecting their feelings every single day. People with social anxiety have super strong feelings that can hurt their ability to contact with people.


    Social anxiety can affect a person’s ability to connect with people. People who can’t connect with others on a social level can’t make friends themselves. Thus, people with social anxiety are usually the quiet people that don’t have much to say. They also have a tendency to be a “loner.”


    People with social anxiety always struggle with worry. They worry about being in social situations. They fret over the least things. If they say or do something wrong, they think that the people around them will hold the thought in their head for a long time. Many think that others will never forget their embarrassing words or actions. In reality, others actually let things go pretty easily, but people with social anxiety have trouble grasping that idea. People who struggle with social anxiety have trouble being in social situations, and they always worry about what others will think of them. It is thought that their worry about what others think about them is the cause for their worry of being in social situations.


    Children and teens with social anxiety tend to be the quiet people in school. They have a tendency to be the people who sit in the back of the classroom and don’t say much. They obviously struggle with oral reports. Many even have trouble raising their hand to answer a question. This can occur even if they know the answer. They usually get embarrassed easily.


    Adults with social anxiety struggle with being in social situations also. They usually have anxious thoughts about going to work, and they almost always worry about their boss will think of them. They feel like they’re going to mess up somehow. They also have anxious thoughts about their co-workers and other equivalent employees. Many have anxious thoughts about eating in a restaurant. They usually feel like they are going to drop their plate and get embarrassed. They may even struggle with getting their plate filled. They can feel like they will spill food when filling their plate and everybody will look at them with disgust.


    In conclusion, the people who have social anxiety struggle with their anxiety every single day. They have trouble communicating efficiently and struggle with making friends. They live their lives with constant worry and fear of embarrassment. The above situations are just a few of the many struggles that people with social anxiety deal with on a daily basis. Social anxiety affects a surprising number of people. These people become overwhelmed by daily life, but they somehow deal with it. Often, people hide their anxiety. Many people never even get diagnosed with their anxiety. Cognitive behavior therapy and sometimes even anti-anxiety medications are used to treat the people who struggle with social anxiety. This type of treatment can be of great help to people who struggle with social anxiety.

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/micahrr/5357518701/

  2. Anxiety in Pregnancy and Early Parenthood

    July 1, 2013

    anxiety in pregnancy

    by Ngaire Stirling

    Anxiety Disorder is a blanket term for a selection of mental health issues widely believed to be caused by a deficiency in a neurotransmitter known as GABA and abnormal activity in the amygdala (flight or fight section of the brain) hypothalamus and cerebellum.  Anxiety Disorders tend to be genetically pre-determined to some extent but are also triggered by stress and worry.  This makes pregnancy and early parenthood a key period for anxiety symptoms in women.

    Anxiety in Pregnancy

    Around 10%* of women experience anxiety or depression in pregnancy and up to 40% in women diagnosed with fertility issues. Previous anxiety issues, poor coping skills, changed living arrangements, violence or abuse, poverty, discrimination, life changes such as giving up work, feelings of isolation, low self-esteem and unplanned pregnancy can all contribute to the likelihood of developing an ante natal anxiety disorder.  Treatment of anxiety disorders includes a number of pharmaceuticals including SSRI anti-depressants however these are not recommended in pregnancy.  Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is recommended for women who wish to avoid medication during pregnancy.

    Anxiety Disorders in Early Parenthood

    Diagnosis with post-natal depression often includes any one of many Anxiety Disorders. This can, unfortunately, leave women who aren’t depressed believing that feelings of panic and extreme anxiety are part of motherhood.   Around 16%* of women are diagnosed post-natal depression in the first year after the birth of their baby and triggers include adjusting to this major life change, sleeplessness, coping with the day to day stresses of motherhood and concerns about baby development.

    How Anxiety Disorders manifest during  Pregnancy and Early Parenthood

    Pregnancy Specific Anxiety

    Pregnancy Specific Anxiety is measured by a questionnaire that determines the level and classification of the anxiety disorder.  It’s been examined in depth as acute anxiety has been proven to have ongoing effects on the child, including pre-mature birth, difficulty concentrating and lower density grey matter.  Major triggers have been identified as fears of birth, fertility issues bearing a disabled child, marital problems, pregnancy complications, negative impact on career and being a younger mother to be.  Pregnant women can be assessed for the level of anxiety they’re experiencing and counselling may be recommended.

    Generalised Anxiety Disorder

    This is the most common diagnosed anxiety condition and is common in both pregnancy and early motherhood.  It manifests in excessive worry about the birth, living arrangements and parenting issues.  Symptoms may include lack of concentration, appearing “short tempered”, fatigue, insomnia and muscle tension.

    Panic Disorder

    Panic disorders can manifest in nausea, confusion, dizziness, racing pulse, extreme emotional state and difficulty breathing.  As some of these symptoms can also be attributed to pregnancy itself, women can feel panicked and be unaware of an underlying disorder.  Panic disorder is generally triggered by acute stress or fear making pregnant women especially vulnerable.

    Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

    Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is surprisingly common in women who have had difficult births or a birth that did not go to plan.  Symptoms include “flashbacks”, panicked feelings, breathlessness and feeling faint when recalling various aspects of the birth.

    Situational Anxiety

    Situational Anxiety is the most common form of anxiety issue and is a direct response to a stressful situation – from a day to day situation to a major life change.  Most people experience situational anxiety at some point in their lives and early parenthood is one of the most reported periods.  A therapist may help identify periods where the anxiety is at its worst and recommend ways to manage it.

    Social Anxiety Disorder

    Social Anxiety Disorder is where the woman has an intense fear of public scrutiny or elevated levels of attention.  As pregnancy tends to increase a woman’s exposure to medical scrutiny and involves activity perceived as “humiliating” (such as constant weighing and invasive exams) it can heighten the symptoms of this disorder.  Similarly, a woman suffering post natal anxiety may feel as though she is being judged for her mothering skills.  This can lead to women withdrawing and isolating themselves, which can, in turn, lead to depression.

    Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

    Compulsive behaviour triggered by repetitive obsessions (intrusive and distressing thoughts and mental images) results from acutely stressful situations.  This is common after the birth of a child where a mother becomes fixated on preventing harm to the child.  The mother may experience “flashes” of disturbing images where her child is hurt or harmed and will compensate with a repetitive behaviour.   Early motherhood can trigger compulsive cleaning behaviours.

    Phobias including Agoraphobia

    Because of the “medical” nature of pregnancy and birth, the most common phobia is a fear of medical interference, bodily fluids and of course, the pain of childbirth.  In the early parenthood period, irrational fears may become overwhelming, especially those related to safety of the child.  Visualising “worst case scenario” consequences of contact with the object of fear can trigger extreme panic in mothers with acute phobias.

    Agoraphobia is a fear of being in a situation where she cannot escape and result in avoidance behaviours such as staying at home or avoiding specific locations.  Agoraphobics may experience a panic attack in such a situation.  This is more common towards the end of pregnancies where women are overcome by fear of labour and shortly after birth where a simple trip with a baby seems overwhelming and fraught with danger.

    Anxiety is an extremely common mental health issue and pregnancy issue.  It’s a leading trigger of pre and post-natal depression and can impact greatly both the mother and the child.  It’s vital for parents who need help to seek it immediately.

    Image Credit: Trevor Bair