If you believe that you or a loved one might be suffering with social anxiety disorder, the first step in finding treatment is seeking an appropriate diagnosis. Social anxiety disorder can show up in different ways.
You might experience overwhelming anxiety in specific social settings, such as public speaking or talking to new people. You might also experience social anxiety in all social situations, even with people that you know and love. This information in and of itself is important for the diagnostic process. Your healthcare professional will be able to help you determine whether or not your symptoms are linked to social anxiety disorder and, if they are, the severity of the problem.
The first step for many people is to seek the advice of their family doctor. He or she will be able to get a general understanding of the problem. Your practitioner will also want to investigate the possibility of your symptoms being linked to some form of medical condition. If the examination shows that you’re not experiencing anxiety due to a physical problem, your doctor will most likely refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for further diagnosis.
There is no laboratory test for social anxiety disorder. Instead, mental health professionals use subjective interviews and observation to determine the nature and severity of your social anxiety disorder. A mental health specialist will ask you a series of questions that might include the following:
- When you experience anxiety, what does it feel like?
- What physical symptoms (i.e. sweating, shaking, heart palpitations) do you experience in social situations?
- Are there specific situations in which you feel anxiety, or do you feel anxious when you’re engaged in social activity of any kind?
- How intense are your feelings of anxiety?
- How would you describe your experiences with social anxiety?
- When did you first notice your social anxiety?
These are just a few of the questions that a doctor could ask you to answer. The doctor will use this information to determine your diagnosis and choose the appropriate treatment.