Get Yourself Out There
If you suffer from mild to moderate social anxiety, you might just feel like you are in a rut most of the time. What is the best way to get out of a rut? Do something.
Although it can be tempting to avoid social and performance situations if you suffer from social anxiety disorder , it is important to get yourself out there. That means accepting invitations to go places and do things that make you uncomfortable. At the same time, you need to prepare yourself to properly handle being out there.
Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
It can be tempting when youre living with severe social anxiety to avoid every situation that makes you feel anxious. Although this might feel relieving at the moment, it can actually make your anxiety worse. Avoiding social situations is actually one of the symptoms of social anxiety, so every time you avoid a situation that makes you feel nervous, you are allowing social anxiety disorder to maintain power over you.
Its difficult, but try getting out of your comfort zone little by little when it comes to social situations. If you think of your anxiety as a scale from 0 to a 10 , start with situations that cause about a level 1 or 2 of anxiety. If you start with the scariest thing, then you may become so frightened that you never feel brave enough to try again. Choose a goal to work towards every week.
What You Can Do
Based on your answers, we recommend:
Learning more about social anxiety and how to prevent it from becoming a problem in your life.
Check out Apps and Tools if you want to learn specific skills for managing social anxiety.
To find support in your community, online or over the phone go to the Get Support section.
Your answers suggest you might be experiencing some social anxiety. Mild social anxiety is common, particularly when we are around people who dont know us well or we are meeting for the first time and it often disappears as we get more comfortable in the situation. People who have this level of anxiety might have some ongoing concerns that other people arent forming a good impression of them.
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Tip : Focus On Others Not Yourself
When were in a social situation that makes us nervous, many of us tend to get caught up in our anxious thoughts and feelings. You may be convinced that everyone is looking at you and judging you. Your focus is on your bodily sensations, hoping that by paying extra close attention you can better control them. But this excessive self-focus just makes you more aware of how nervous youre feeling, triggering even more anxiety! It also prevents you from fully concentrating on the conversations around you or the performance youre giving.
Switching from an internal to an external focus can go a long way toward reducing social anxiety. This is easier said than done, but you cant pay attention to two things at once. The more you concentrate on whats happening around you, the less youll be affected by anxiety.
Focus your attention on other people, but not on what theyre thinking of you! Instead, do your best to engage them and make a genuine connection.
Remember that anxiety isnt as visible as you think. And even if someone notices that youre nervous, that doesnt mean theyll think badly of you. Chances are other people are feeling just as nervous as youor have done in the past.
Really listen to what is being said not to your own negative thoughts.
Focus on the present moment, rather than worrying about what youre going to say or beating yourself up for a flub thats already passed.
Tip : Avoid Clich Meeting Places Find Smaller Groups
Social anxiety is at its worst in environments that promote too much social behavior. Many people with social anxiety still try to meet people in “normal” meeting spots, like bars, clubs, or parties. But these places provide excess stress that is hard for someone to mentally overcome.
Try to attend small events where meeting people isn’t a priority, and where you can also get used to smaller social situations. For example, there are several places online to find hiking groups, and hiking groups are generally 4 to 5 people at most. Even though such a small group of people means that you may not find someone you connect with, small groups also give you an opportunity to practice socially and could introduce you to friends, which in turn can help you meet someone someday.
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A Social Anxiety Disorder Is More Than Being Shy
If youre shy and have difficulty in certain social situations, youre not alone. Various sources say 20% to nearly 50% of Americans identify as shy. But being shy doesnt necessarily mean you have a social anxiety disorder, which is characterized by strong fears about interacting with people socially and strange, unfounded worries.
If you have a social anxiety disorder or social phobia, you may:
- Dread meeting new people
- Experience fear or stress in many social situations, including dates and job interviews
- Be afraid to do things in front of other people, including eating, drinking, or even speaking up in class
- Believe youre always being judged
- Be overly self-conscious in social interactions
The disorder can start young and can affect children. About 7% of Americans suffer from it. And if you dont nip it in the bud, a social anxiety disorder can get progressively worse and last for years or even a lifetime.
No one wants a full-on panic attack or something even more extreme. Just as there are many reasons and causes for your disorder, there are also many treatment options. These can include therapy, medication, or a combination of both.
Learning how to reduce your own stress and worry is so very vital. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques can get you through a lot, but never hesitate to ask for help.
Diagnosis Of Social Anxiety Disorder
Regarding the diagnosis of SAD specifically, Skre, Onstand, Torgersen, and Kringlen obtained a kappa of 0.72 for inter-rater reliability using the SCID-III-R. Williams et al. obtained a more modest kappa of 0.47 for test-retest reliability of SAD using the DSM-III-R.
Jahangir Moini, … Mohtashem Samsam, in, 2020
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Tips To Overcome Social Anxiety
If your social anxiety is so severe that its impacting your life, you may need to see a mental health professional to ask about an anxiety diagnosis and treatment. Both anti-anxiety medications and psychotherapy have been found to be very helpful in decreasing the symptoms of social anxiety disorder.
In the meantime, there are some practices that you can incorporate into your daily life to start dealing with severe social anxiety. Try some of these techniques and learn which practices work best for you.
Avoid The Usual Temptations
If you have a bad habit of wasting too much time on the internet or watching television instead of socializing, try cutting back or making it educational time in terms of learning about SAD and social skills. See how much time you gain to focus on overcoming your social anxiety and building your social skills.
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How To Overcome Social Anxiety Disorder Tip : Challenge Negative Thoughts
While it may seem like theres nothing you can do about the symptoms of social anxiety disorder or social phobia, in reality, there are many things that can help. The first step is challenging your mentality.
Social anxiety sufferers have negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to their fears and anxiety. These can include thoughts such as:
- I know Ill end up looking like a fool.
- My voice will start shaking and Ill humiliate myself.
- People will think Im stupid
- I wont have anything to say. Ill seem boring.
Challenging these negative thoughts is an effective way to reduce the symptoms of social anxiety.
Step 1: Identify the automatic negative thoughts that underlie your fear of social situations. For example, if youre worried about an upcoming work presentation, the underlying negative thought might be: Im going to blow it. Everyone will think Im completely incompetent.
Step 2: Analyze and challenge these thoughts. It helps to ask yourself questions about the negative thoughts: Do I know for sure that Im going to blow the presentation? or Even if Im nervous, will people necessarily think Im incompetent? Through this logical evaluation of your negative thoughts, you can gradually replace them with more realistic and positive ways of looking at social situations that trigger your anxiety.
Complications Of Social Anxiety Disorder
People with social phobia are at high risk for alcohol or other drug use, because they may wind up relying on substances to relax in social situations.
Social anxiety disorder can also lead to loneliness and social isolation.
Without treatment, social anxiety disorder can interfere with work, school, relationships, and enjoyment of life, per the Mayo Clinic.
It can also cause:
- Low academic and employment achievement
- Suicide or suicide attempts
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Work With Your Strengths
In order to get yourself out of a social anxiety rut, you don’t need to have an end goal of becoming a stand-up comedian or accomplished concert pianist.
If you love books, maybe joining a book club or even leading a book club would be your thing. Think about your interests and talents, and how you can bring more sociability into those areas in your life.
What Does Social Anxiety Look Like
When faced with a feared social situation, people with social anxiety experience some of the following:
- People with social anxiety tend to have negative thoughts about themselves , as well as how others will react to them
- People with social anxiety also tend to focus their attention on themselves during social situations. They focus on their performance and how anxious they feel and look
- Examples: Im going to say something stupid Ill get anxious and others will notice They wont like me Others will think Im stupid Ill offend someone or No one will talk to me
- People with social anxiety are often very concerned about visible signs of anxiety, such as blushing or trembling.
- Examples: racing heart, upset stomach, shaking, choking sensations, sweating, blushing, trembling, dry mouth, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, blurred vision, urge to urinate, etc.
Avoidance and safety behaviors
- People with social anxiety will often try to avoid or escape social situations. If they do go into social situations, they tend to do things to feel less anxious or to protect themselves from embarrassment or negative evaluation .
- Examples: Avoiding , escaping a scary social situation or engaging in protective behaviours to try and stay safe .
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Become Your Own Best Advocate
Nobody else is going to look out for you the way you can look out for yourself. Gather knowledge about SAD so that you can make better decisions. Ask for accommodations at work and school if you feel they will help you. Guide others toward better understanding of the struggles you face. Take time out at parties if you feel the need. Nobody else knows what it is like to be you.
What About Shyness Or Quietness
While shyness and general quietness arent mutually exclusive from social anxiety disorder, one doesnt always mean the other. Many people are what we would consider shy or quiet, and those normal traits can lead to some anxiety.
People who are shy might be asked to speak up or just be themselves, and this social feedback could make them think that something is wrong. Its normal and natural to be introverted or shy, so long as youre not shuttered by an underlying feeling of intense anxiety and fear around social situations.
Social anxiety disorder doesnt have to do with your personality traits so much as your internal experience surrounding social interactions.
That intense anxiety will likely interrupt your ability to conduct life in the way you otherwise would. Lets take a look at some of the symptoms that social anxiety disorder produces that prevent one from living life freely.
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Tip : Learning To Breathe Better
Most of the physical symptoms of severe social anxiety are due to a problem known as hyperventilation. Hyperventilation is the act of breathing too quickly, although contrary to popular belief, hyperventilation is caused by too much oxygen and too little carbon dioxide, not the other way around.
Hyperventilation causes issues like:
- Rapid thoughts
The adrenaline from anxiety leads to many of these symptoms as well, but hyperventilation is often the biggest culprit, especially for those with severe anxiety symptoms. That’s why it’s important to try to control your breathing when you have severe anxiety so that these symptoms dissipate.
To reduce hyperventilation symptoms, you’re going to need to fight the urge to breathe too deeply. Hyperventilation causes people to feel as though they’re not getting enough air, even though the opposite is true. Try the following:
- Breathe in very slowly through your nose take as much as 5 seconds or more.
- Hold for 3 seconds.
- Breathe out through your mouth like you’re whistling for 7 seconds.
Continue for a few minutes. Once hyperventilation symptoms start they do not go away that quickly. But this type of breathing will make it easier to reduce the severity of the symptoms, and possibly stop your panic attack.
Quiz: Do I Have Social Anxiety Or Am I Just Shy
Its normal to feel a little shy from time to time. Maybe you get a little nervous when you walk into a party and you dont know anyone, or you might get a little anxious on the first day of school. Thats normal shyness, but social anxiety is something different, and it can be crippling. If you wonder if you suffer from social anxiety, this is the test for you. After you complete the test, youll know the answer to the question, Do I have social anxiety? Then, you can move forward with treatment if necessary.
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Stay Connected To Others
Tell your family and friends what you are experiencing. Help them to understand that telling you to just relax or ignore your fears wont help. Tell them that what you need instead is their support and encouragement for you to slowly understand and face your anxiety, one small step at a time. They can also help by coming to social situations with you so you dont need to manage on your own.