Prisoners of the mind: a SAD story

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Posted Wednesday, March 23, 2011 - 8:04pm

Indecision, anxiety and fear. These are the three constants of people that suffer Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), a disorder that causes intense fear and anxiety when exposed to social situations.

According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, over 15 million Americans have SAD, making it one of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders in the country. SAD is believed to start at birth with 7 percent of the population being born with it in a year. The statistics rise even higher if either parent have any mental disorders. Those who suffer from SAD are actually terrified of other people (with the exceptions of a small amount of close friends), making any social situation that involves strangers an anxiety-filled nightmare.

What makes a person with SAD tick: A near constant barrage of internal thoughts confusing issues and making them far less likely to ever actually interact fluidly with another person. The fear of being judged by strangers prevents them from ever interacting with another human being without being constantly self-conscious.

Suffering from SAD stretches beyond anxiety attacks and an incredible fear of all things involving other human beings. It also affects careers; according to a Social Anxiety Center, 31 percent of SAD sufferers actually maintain full-time employment when compared to 54 percent of people without psychiatric disorders. They are more likely to have poor grades and are also more likely to drop out of school.

There are methods of getting help with SAD. Unfortunately, the nature of SAD can and will prevent people from seeking help. Therapists can help treat SAD, but being as SAD is the fear of interacting socially, it prevents many people from going down this road. So when therapy not an option, people with SAD have two methods of seeking help: the first one being self-help books that will teach methods of overcoming SAD (teaching control of the over active thoughts); or there are several Internet forums created so people with SAD can workout their issues with other sufferers and experts without stress and anxiety.

So the next time you’re scared of standing in front of that classroom, imagine how much worse it would be to feel like that in anytime you have to talk with a stranger.

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