When I was younger, I had some serious social anxiety. I would get very nervous whenever I would be in large groups because I would be concerned with what people thought of me. My mind would be consumed with this thought so I would avoid public spots. I think back to how long I’ve had social anxiety and remember that even at an early age before my bipolar diagnosis, I suffered from high social anxiety. Recently, it started to bother me again but in a different way. For example, I’m not really scared of large groups anymore, but more concerned on how social anxiety and depression are linked. I’ve read how it can be a contributing factor in developing depression, bipolar disorder and dysthymia (persistent mild depression). As mentioned, social anxiety has been a part of my life ever since I was a young kid way before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I`m now intrigued with the connection between them and if treating one will help the other.
I read if you have social anxiety disorder (SAD), you are six times more likely to develop bipolar disorder. Research has shown that social anxiety disorder puts limitations on your life furthermore causing depression. For example, have you noticed because of social anxiety, you force yourself to stay in doors? You force yourself to avoid situations where there are a lot of people. Personally, I’ve always loved meeting new people, communicating and being around people. As a matter of fact, I remember even as a young kid I loved being outdoors until my anxiety kicked in and I would then avoid public situations. This caused me to become very depressed because I wasn’t doing what I loved. Socializing is what I love doing.
My social anxiety would force me to avoid people, be alone causing me to feel sad, even depressed. Here’s something else –
“The risk of developing these secondary disorders also increases in relation to the number of social fears that you have.” – verywell.com
What’s First — Anxiety or Depression?
First, you need to keep in mind that NOT everyone who has SAD (social anxiety disorder) will develop depression. It’s just like getting treatment for anything else, meaning, if you can catch it early enough then there’s a higher chance of lowering the severity. Like in my example, I didn’t know social anxiety and depression are linked so didn’t get help. I didn’t know how social anxiety can lead to a higher risk of bipolar so left my condition alone. I got help in 2000 at the age of 20 but was living with anxiety and depression since grade six age 13. That’s a 7-year wait to even consider getting help. Also, I didn’t know how social anxiety has a treatment like depression so this forced me to wait too.
This is the neurotransmitter involved in regulating mood and anxiety. It is the neurotransmitter that medications like Lexapro, Zoloft, Prozac and Paxil slow down. Again, Serotonin is responsible for not only regulating mood but an imbalance of this brain chemical will cause anxiety too.
“Physical abnormalities such as a serotonin imbalance may contribute to this condition. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that helps regulate mood. An overactive amygdala (a structure in the brain that controls fear response and feelings or thoughts of anxiety) may also cause these disorders.” – healthline.com
Serotonin imbalance is what links depression and anxiety. Depression is the main characteristic of bipolar disorder as your mood goes from one extreme to another – mania to depressive. A chemical imbalance links all three – social anxiety, depression and bipolar, but not getting help at the right time will determine the severity. So, the question now is how can you treat social anxiety, depression and bipolar?
The connection between depression, bipolar disorder and social anxiety is so strong that treatment involves the same approach. Your doctor may prescribe a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which slow down the re-absorption of the neurotransmitter Serotonin. CBT (Cognitive emotional behavioral therapy) is also very effective because it targets disruptive patterns known to trigger anxiety, mood swings, etc. With CBT, you’ll be put through a wide-range of situations and learn effective ways to handle them instead of letting them cause you pain, sadness, or trigger manic episodes. In other words, you’ll learn new thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes towards different situations which have caused you anxiety or depression in the past.
In my case, social anxiety has been a part of my life from a very young age. What didn’t help was my inability to handle embarrassing situations when I would be with friends. I think this forced my anxiety to worsen. I also believe this led to depression and around this time I became bipolar. It’s hard it pin point the exact time, but looking back at the pattern my anxiety started when I was 13. I want to hear your experiences with social anxiety and how you think it is linked to depression. Has social anxiety effected your life greatly?