Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is the third most common psychiatric condition affecting the UK. A staggering five in a hundred people have some degree of social phobia, and women are two to three times more likely to be affected. Due to this and other socio-economic impacts of SAD, public and private institutes and community leaders are currently collaborating to help and support those who suffer from SAD.
In line with these efforts, FitQuid’s contribution to this support for people with SAD will include creating relevant awareness-raising content, offering supplemental support sessions on the platform, and encouraging group-based activities to help alleviate the symptoms of SAD through human connection. In this article, we will have a closer look at the definition of SAD, possible ways to address it, and FitQuid’s contribution.
The National Health Service (NHS) defines Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), or social phobia, as a chronic sense of nervousness and fear of negative evaluation by other people in social settings. It is imperative to note that SAD is a significant contributory factor in feelings of low self-worth, self-consciousness, inferiority, humiliation, and depression. These and other SAD symptoms commonly manifest in social settings. Specifically, in contexts such as being introduced to people, being teased or criticized, and while feeling as if one is the center of attention or being observed, which results in feelings of insecurity and embarrassment, etc.
Once triggered, SAD comes with numerous physical, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms (Figure 1) that could be debilitating in more severe cases of anxiety.
The severity of the symptoms associated with SAD varies from one individual to another. A specialist recommended courses of treatment are likely to involve a combination of options. One option is physical activity, Ben Michaelis, Ph.D., an evolutionary clinical psychologist, is quoted as saying: “We know that the old divisions of body and mind are false.” In other words, any form of physical activity would yield some benefits in helping with SAD. Researchers expressly point towards running, hiking in the woods, and yoga as exercises that result in the most significant effects. These exercises lead to lasting changes in the release of ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters serotonin, a chemical with a variety of functions widely associated with positive feelings of well-being, and norepinephrine, a hormone related to energy and alertness, in the brain. leading to lowering the impact of anxiety and depression.
Another support option that care specialists could include in their treatment program is therapy. An example of a widely used therapy option is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT therapists help individuals suffering from SAD identify negative thought patterns and behaviors, and work with the individuals to encourage better control of their focus and actions. CBT therapists help their patients change their perspective and thought process to better deal with social settings. The CBT therapist’s toolkit includes three techniques:
- Exposure: The therapist takes the individual through simulated scenarios during which they can offer guidance at every step of the way.
- Cognitive Restructuring: The therapist would focus on SAD’s cognitive symptoms (Figure 2) and attempt to help the individual reconstruct their negative thoughts into more positive alternatives.
- Social Skills Training: This is an area of treatment not required by all individuals who suffer from SAD symptoms. Instead, this is a training exercise that helps long-term SAD sufferers practice social interactions because they have been avoiding social settings due to their condition.
Compared to other support options, a care specialist might prefer CBT due to several reasons:
- Accessibility: CBT can be administered individually or as a part of a group, online or in person. The availability of treatment via different channels and delivery methods makes it a very accessible treatment option.
- Low Risk: A care specialist might add CBT to an overall treatment program as a low-risk complement to any other support measures in the program. For example, a specialist might prescribe medications such as antidepressants and beta-blockers to an individual, adding CBT to their treatment might increase the efficacy of the program with very little additional risk.
The community could offer further support in addressing SAD and anxiety-related conditions by raising awareness and offering local support groups. FitQuid supports this community effort by providing a multisided platform that serves as a means of delivering group/ individual-based workouts, and group/ individual-based CBT sessions.
Social anxiety costs the NHS more than £609 per person, which leads to an average of £6,850 in productivity loss per employee annually. In 2015, due to the absence or reduced work of more than 120,900 employees in the country, the UK’s GDP was £25 billion lower than first expected. This follows the global trend in which mental health and behavioral problems are the leading cause of disability globally, causing up to a combined loss of 40 million years of working hours.
FitQuid’s vision is to create an interactive ecosystem for a community with shared interests and with the goal of leading a healthy and happy life. In line with this, FitQuid strives to improve the overall mental wellbeing of society by addressing some of the country’s most significant psychological issues, such as SAD. FitQuid utilizes a unique & gamified approach with challenges and rewards to motivate the first steps towards treatment, a journey that includes individual and/or group-based CBT, and the ability to network and create human connections.
These individual and group-based activities have a positive effect on the symptoms of SAD, as it is a debilitating disorder that renders those who suffer from it unable to create human connections. It is harder for them to make long term relationships and have successful professional careers. Additionally, SAD is a naturally unremitting condition unless it is addressed with adequate support and help. Thus, it is imperative to raise awareness about the issue and provide convenient and useful treatment methods. Therefore, FitQuid has taken on this challenge to inform the public about SAD and offer help and support through our platform. Our goal is to help the community to come together in solidarity to beat SAD and other mental wellbeing related conditions, to move towards a happier and healthier community.