Depression And Loneliness With Social Anxiety
Depression and social anxiety disorder (SAD) are two of the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorders in the world. In the UK alone, roughly 5% of the adult population suffers from some degree of social anxiety. Moreover, women are 2 to 3 times more likely than men to show signs of the disorder.
It goes without saying that social anxiety and depression are linked. In some people there is clear evidence that one preceded the other. In other people, the conditions appear to be co-occurring. Most interesting of all is the fact that, among individuals diagnosed with both depression and social anxiety disorder, nearly 70% experienced social anxiety first. Depression followed later. This could be due to the impact Social Anxiety has on a person's day to day routine.
Basic Principles of Social Anxiety
Social anxiety disorder is more than just shyness. It is more than just being uncomfortable in social situations. A person suffering from social anxiety finds the stress of social situations too much to handle, both physically and emotionally. As such, sufferers make a point of avoiding as much social contact as possible. They do not like making eye contact or engaging in small talk. They do not like to go to dinner parties or out with friends. The emotional symptoms of social anxiety may include:
- low self-esteem and self confidence
- fear of embarrassment, rejection, or humiliation
- an inability to overcome social awkwardness
Social Anxiety can manifest itself in physical symptoms as well. These can include:
- shortness of breath
- rapid heartbeat
- profuse Sweating
- light headedness
- upset stomach or nausea
It should be easy to understand how the combination of the symptoms would be enough to prevent sufferers from engaging in social situations. Indeed, social anxiety sufferers tend to avoid social interaction as a means of avoiding uncomfortable symptoms. This can lead to isolation which, in turn, can contribute to depression.
Social Anxiety, Loneliness, and Depression
The physical and emotional symptoms of social anxiety disorder are certainly troubling in and of themselves. But avoiding social situations to avoid the symptoms can contribute to depression as well. A Social Anxiety sufferer is more likely to experience low self-esteem, a heightened awareness of criticism, continuing negative thought patterns, and poor social skills that do not seem to improve.
Not being able to cope can lead a person with social anxiety to isolate him or herself. The resulting lack of human contact can result in feelings of intense loneliness. Unfortunately, such feelings only contribute to the negative thoughts and emotions the person is already dealing with. Thus, social isolation can create a cycle of feelings that continue to swirl in an emotional storm that only grows stronger.
Social isolation that continues long enough can give rise to depression. Just like Social Anxiety is more than just shyness and social awkwardness, depression is more than just feeling sad from time to time. Clinical depression is a condition that results in chronic sadness. Its symptoms include:
- low physical and mental energy
- lack of motivation
- lack of interest in activities
- insomnia OR excessive sleeping
- inability to focus
- feelings of hopelessness
- suicidal thoughts
In some people, depression can also cause body aches and emotional outbursts, usually displayed as anger or excessive frustration. These are the result of an inability to deal with one's chronic sadness.
It is not a given that people suffering from Social anxiety also suffer from depression or will be diagnosed with the disorder at a later stage. But studies do show a very strong link between the two disorders. Fortunately, both are treatable. The recommendation is that it is always best to see a GP if you think you might be suffering from social anxiety, depression, or both.