Clinical depression is defined by the U.S. National Library of Medicine as “a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer.”
The Library of Medicine site explains that healthy people may experience brief periods of depression throughout their life, especially after a major setback or life event (e.g., a divorce, a bankruptcy, the loss of a loved one). However, healthy individuals are usually able to overcome their feelings of despair before their quality of life is significantly affected.
According to Psychology Today, social phobia is “an anxiety disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations.” Referred to by some as “social anxiety disorder,” the mental health illness can actually lead to depression. Social anxiety disorder is less common than depression in the general population; 3.7 percent of Americans suffer from the former illness while 10 percent of Americans are estimated by the CDC to be depressed.
How Does Social Phobia Lead to Depression?
People who have social phobia feel overwhelmed by the desire to have the approval of others. They feel easily embarrassed and stressed out when they interact with other people. This can make social phobics angry or disappointed with themselves. They want to make friends and have relationships like everyone else does, but they are sometimes unable to get past their anxiety and discomfort. This can lead to unsatisfying relationships or isolation and, eventually, depression.
Everyday things that involve human interaction can be emotionally taxing for a person who has social phobia. Shopping, meeting new people, and dating may be particularly difficult for those with social phobia. Teens and young adults who are social phobics may be especially unhappy with the repercussions of having the disorder.
As adults, social phobics may be pressured by others to be more outgoing and relaxed in social settings, as family members often think their relative is simply “shy” and may outgrow the trait.
What Are the Similarities between Depression and Social Phobia?
People who are diagnosed with depression and people who are diagnosed with social phobia often have something in common: their way of thinking. In the next article in this series on depression and social phobia, the main focus will be on how negative thought patterns contribute to both illnesses. The third and final article will be an overview of strategies taught by therapists and other mental health professionals to their patients and intended to eliminate negative ways of thinking and substitute them with healthy, productive thought patterns.