Even though one may be confused that he/she has one or the other condition, since some of the symptoms for both can be similar and confusing, the answer to this question is simple. No, social phobia cannot lead to schizophrenia. Many patients with schizophrenia often show symptoms of social phobia, but never the other way around.
There are some anxiety disorders which have the potential to make you feel as though your mind is starting to fail you, and that you’re losing touch with reality, despite this, schizophrenia has some distinctive features which make it easier as to not be confused with any phobia.
Social phobia and schizophrenia both may have trouble thinking and speaking, depersonalization or intense drive that isn’t easy to explain, but anxiety is not schizophrenia, and there are two very easy ways to tell the difference:
To begin with, people with schizophrenia have no idea that they are losing touch with reality, opposite of those suffering from anxiety who fear that they might lose touch with their surroundings. This is mainly due to the fact that their brain is essentially not functioning correctly, and so it is unable to even process the changes that are taking place.
And secondly, in the cases of schizophrenia, the changes in their thinking and reality tend to be gradual, and progressive, to a point where there is no turning back, nor there are moments of clarity. These people are dependent on medications in order to have control over their behavior and the reality. So not only are they unaware that these changes are happening, they also do not get a break from the symptoms for long enough to wonder what’s happening to them.
The people living with schizophrenia need constant help from medical personnel, and they are unable to recognize their flaws in logical thinking and determine between reality and hallucinations. Those with schizophrenia are often unable to notice and verbalize their condition and do not get any breaks in between symptoms. Those with anxiety do. And this is not even a conclusive list. If you have familial history of schizophrenia, and you are unsure or undiagnosed by a healthcare professional, you should seek for a consult by a psychiatrist or psychologist.
Very often, people suffering from anxiety fear of schizophrenia. One of the things many people with anxiety forget is that a fear of going crazy is a symptom of anxiety. The fear of losing control is just another symptom of anxiety, and anxiety itself causes the mind to believe in this worst case scenario. So this fear of anxiety is merely as irrational as any other fear in people with anxiety.
Anxiety can cause issues with thinking, trouble with reality, lightheadedness, and other symptoms that may force you to think something is wrong with your brain. But anxiety is a completely different condition, and one that has a much better long term outlook, the treatment mustn’t be pharmacological, and the hallucinations are not of the same intensity as in schizophrenia. So in the end you shouldn’t worry about becoming schizophrenic, and by treating your anxiety you will also free yourself from this fear.
How to treat anxiety?
While schizophrenia is very difficult to treat, anxiety is always treatable. There are many approaches in treating anxiety and you simply need to find the right method of treatment – one that works well for you, and one that you’re willing to commit to.
Usually psychotherapy is the first-line of treatment for social phobia. Psychotherapy is talk therapy usually done with social workers and psychologists. From the many available treatments in psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is proven to be the most effective in cases of social anxiety, and even more effective and lasting that pharmacotherapy. The therapy is focused on addressing your thoughts and behaviors, as well as reactions which lead to anxiety, and tries to break this malfunctioning cycle of thoughts.
Prescription drug treatment for social anxiety is rarely used and it is considered as a last-resort treatment, for cases resistant to psychotherapy. This is reserved for severe cases of social anxiety, and is used as a supportive treatment, and usually accompanied with psychotherapy, but pills are almost never given alone, for the sake of treatment. This type of therapy requires doctors’ assessment and prescription.
Natural supplements, which include herbal and nutritional products, are effective for social phobia, especially tryptophan, which is proven especially effective for social anxiety disorder by many studies. Natural supplements like KalmPro generally have fewer side effects and are generally less expensive than prescription medications for anxiety.
Another resort for treatment which should be considered at the very beginning and during your treatment with a professional is self-help in cases of anxiety. Research has shown that self-help interventions are effective for social phobia, especially computer therapy via the internet.
There are other alternative treatments that can be considered in treating anxiety, like being on an anti-anxiety diet. One may be surprised to what extent processed food and caffeine contributes to anxiety and stress. Many studies have proven that food affects how we feel. While there are certain foods that can make us feel calmer, other foods can stimulate our body and brain and make us feel rushed. If you experience stress or anxiety, slight modifications in your diet can help you ease your symptoms of anxiety. For starters, you should start avoiding caffeine, alcoholic beverages and unhealthy processed food, and focus on eating more fruits, vegetables, and plenty on water. If you want to read more on anti-anxiety diet, please follow the following link.
Dr Purva says
Can social anxiety, phobia and dysfunctional thoughts occuring together be a likely manifestation of schizophrenia which started in adolescent age?
Dr. Carlo says
Dear Dr. Purva,
Social withdrawal as seen in schizophrenia can be misidentified as social anxiety. But the social withdrawal seen in schizophrenia is due to paranoid delusions, not due to social anxiety as seen in social phobia (social anxiety disorder). If you want to assess a young person early on for their risk for schizophrenia, I suggest you do a thorough clinical history of symptoms of the patient, then do a thorough family history, looking for psychosis in the family tree. The core symptoms of schizophrenia is a deficit in reality testing, where they can’t tell what is real or imaginary. Anxiety presents as a fear of a situation or object.