Is it possible to have other illnesses as well as Social Anxiety Disorder?

People with Social Anxiety Disorder often have other illnesses. The most common illnesses associated with Social Anxiety Disorder are: Depression, Panic Disorder, and Drug or Alcohol Abuse.

It is important to tell your doctor about all your symptoms, as it can affect the type of treatment he or she chooses to use. There are treatments that can treat both Social Anxiety Disorder and its associated disorders. Alcohol and drug abuse can also be managed with medications, counselling, and through the support of self-help groups.

It is not surprising that after years of feeling anxious, upset, and socially isolated, a person develops Depression. In fact, Social Anxiety Disorder and Depression have some symptoms in common, such as stomach upset, low self-esteem, and sensitivity to criticism.

The fear and anxiety associated with Social Anxiety Disorder can develop into full-blown panic attacks or a condition known as Panic Disorder. Everyone experiences a panic attack differently, however the most common symptoms of a panic attack include: racing or pounding heart, chest pains, sweating, difficulty catching your breath, choking sensation, dizziness, and hot flashes.

A word about Depression

We all get "depressed" from time-to-time. Most often these feelings are short-lived and our mood improves when things change. We get back to being our "old selves".

Yet for many people, the symptoms of depression are more severe and last much longer. Depression is very different from "feeling down" or "having the blues". If left untreated for long periods, Depression can seriously affect sleep patterns, appetite, energy levels, and physical well-being. Negative thoughts, a sense of helplessness or hopelessness, and always feeling sad, are symptoms of people suffering from Depression.

Some things to look for if you think you may be suffering from Depression are:

  • Changes in your mood: you are bothered by small things, feel sad all the time or take less pleasure in things you once enjoyed.
  • Changes in your physical well-being: increase or decrease in appetite and weight, trouble sleeping or waking up, low energy levels, lack of motivation, headaches, or general aches and pains.
  • Changes in your thought patterns: negative thoughts, trouble concentrating or paying attention, feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, guilt or pessimism.

Fortunately, there are medications that can treat both Social Anxiety Disorder and Depression. Talk to your doctor about treatments that can help you overcome the symptoms of these illnesses.

A word about Panic Disorder

Up to four people in 100 will experience episodes of intense, overwhelming fear that reaches a peak within ten minutes and comes on suddenly and unexpectedly. During these attacks, it is not unusual to feel that you are having a heart attack, are being suffocated or are going crazy. During these periods, people often say they have heart palpitations, a rapid heart beat, and shortness of breath or choking. There may also be swearing, nausea and diarrhea, trembling and shaking during these attacks. As well, the person may describe a sense of things being unreal, or that they feel detached from themselves. These symptoms together are known as a panic attack. When a person has repeated and unexpected panic attacks, they are diagnosed as having Panic Disorder.

After a person has experienced even one or two attacks, there can be great anxiety and worry about when the next attack will occur. Some people with Panic Disorder end up developing agoraphobia, which is the fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult or in which help may not be available. This is because after a panic attack, the person learns to fear having another attack in the same place or in a location where it would be difficult to get help. If agoraphobia becomes severe enough, the person may become housebound and unable to perform normal daily activities.

Panic Disorder is often misunderstood. People with the disorder may spend months or years trying to find an explanation for what they feel are mysterious physical symptoms. Others won't seek treatment because they are embarrassed, think their condition is just due to stress, or they are afraid of what the doctor will diagnose.

Because of their constant fear of having a panic attack, people with Panic Disorder often isolate themselves from others.

A word about Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol is often available at parties and other social gatherings. Many people with Social Anxiety Disorder often feel that drinking or taking drugs will help them "loosen up" so they can talk to other people. It is important to realize that drugs and alcohol only cause more anxiety and often lead to alcohol and drug abuse.

The long-term effects of drug or alcohol abuse can be very damaging to your physical health and well-being. It can also be very disruptive to your family, friends and other relationships. When talking to your doctor, be honest about any drug or alcohol use. Drugs and alcohol can seriously affect the treatment your doctor will prescribe for you and can lead to dangerous side-effects.

Alcohol and drug abuse can also be managed with medications, counselling, and through the support of self-help groups.

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