Environmental Influences And Stressful Life Experiences As A Cause Of Social Anxiety
Stressful life events and trauma during childhood can influence the development of social anxiety problems. Some of the exposures known to have predictive value for severe social anxiety include:
- Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
- Family conflicts, domestic violence, and divorce
- Death of or desertion by a parent
- Maternal stress during pregnancy or infancy
Traumatic experiences can reinforce the idea that the world is a scary and unpredictable place, and it can be especially shocking and disheartening to kids to discover that their caregivers are capable of selfish or hurtful behavior.
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Dealing With Social Phobia
People with social phobia can learn to manage fear, develop confidence and coping skills, and stop avoiding things that make them anxious. But it’s not always easy. Overcoming social phobia means getting up the courage it takes to go beyond what’s comfortable, little by little.
Here’s who can support and guide people in overcoming social phobia:
- Therapists can help people recognize the physical sensations caused by fightflight and teach them to interpret these sensations more accurately. Therapists can help people create a plan for facing social fears one by one, and help them build the skills and confidence to do it. This includes practicing new behaviors. Sometimes, but not always, medications that reduce anxiety are used as part of the treatment for social phobia.
- Family or friends are especially important for people who are dealing with social phobia. The right support from a few key people can help those with social phobia gather the courage to go outside their comfort zone and try something new. Putdowns, lectures, criticisms, and demands to change don’t help and just make a person feel bad. Having social phobia isn’t a person’s fault and isn’t something anyone chooses. Instead, friends and family can encourage people with social phobia to pick a small goal to aim for, remind them to go for it, and be there when they might feel discouraged. Good friends and family are there to celebrate each small success along the way.
They Want To Be Recognized For Something Other Than Just Their Social Maladaptation
A mental health issue does not define a person it is simply one trait possessed right now. People with this affliction can be intelligent, can be productive, and can have a number of personalities and professional traits that are quite positive. Recognizing and praising these positive traits will show that you see beyond this single negative and can see their value as a whole person.
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Oh The Daily Struggles Of Social Anxiety It Follows You Everywhere Like A Shadow Except Its Not Silent It Whispers Negative Thoughts Into Your Ears Thoughts Only You Can Hear Heres How I Evolved And Am Still Evolving With Social Anxiety
Lets talk about social anxiety dont worry this isnt face-to-face, its online where you feel safe and sheltered behind your screen. When I was a teen, I was told that Im like a different person on social media. I wasnt trying to act cooler or anything, I was simply more comfortable online. Years later, Im evolving as a person much like everyone else and sometimes I still ignore phone calls , but Im also trying to not let anxiety get the better of me.
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.
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Find Ways To Make Use Of Any Insight They Have Into Their Anxiety
If your loved one has insight into their anxiety, you can help them spot when their anxiety-driven patterns are occurring. I find it helpful when my spouse notices that Im expressing my anxiety about work by being irritable with her or by being too fussy. Because we know each others patterns so well and have a trusting relationship, we can point out each others habits. Not that this is always met with grace, but the message sinks in anyway.
If youre going to do this, its a good idea to have their permission first. Keep in mind that people who have insight into their anxiety often still feel compelled to give in to their anxious thoughts. For instance, a person with health anxiety might logically know that going to the doctor every week for multiple tests is unnecessary, but they cant help themselves. If your loved one lacks insight into their anxiety or has trouble managing compulsions, its probably best to encourage them to see a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of anxiety.
Take Care Of Yourself Too
Recognize that your goal is to help, not to cure the person or relieve them from their anxiety. Taking too much responsibility is actually a symptom of anxiety, so make sure youre not falling into that trap yourself.
Keep in mind that your support doesnt need to be directly focused on anxiety. For example, exercise is extremely helpful for anxiety so perhaps you could simply offer to go for a walk or attend a yoga class together. Its also fine to put some limits on your support. A 20-minute de-stressing conversation while taking a walk is far more likely to be useful than a two-hour marathon discussion.
Helping someone with anxiety isnt always easy and you may feel like youre getting it wrong. But, if you remind yourself that you and your loved one are both doing your best, it can help you keep things in perspective. Its important to remain compassionate and, as the saying goes, to put on your own oxygen mask first. That way, youll have a clearer head for figuring out whats going on with your anxious loved one and how you can truly be of help.
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Help Them Plan For Anxiety In Advance
Depending on your loved one’s openness, you might offer to help them prepare for potentially anxiety-provoking social settings. One idea is to work with your friend or family member to jot down situations that might trigger anxiety and brainstorm ways to handle the onset of overwhelming feelings, Hafeez says.
For example, if the thought of a dinner party makes your loved one nervous, they can generate calming strategies in advance like taking deep breaths or going for a short walk. Having a plan often eases the nerves, Hafeez says.
Likewise, you can also help your friend create an anxiety hierarchy by thinking through and writing down their fears from mild to most severe, she says. And then, depending on how your friend or family member feels, you can offer your support in each situation.
For instance, if going to a club is the most terrifying thing on their list, you can accompany them in less anxiety-provoking situations, say, going to dinner with a few friends, until they’ve worked their way up their anxiety hierarchy and reached a willingness to try the club.
Practice Participating In Social Situations
- Start with easier situations, like hanging out with a small group, and try different experiences as you get more comfortable.
- Try going into situations where you feel supported. For example, go out with a friend, or pick a spot where its easy to leave if you need to.
- You will feel less anxious if you are engaging with people who you feel connected to. Try connecting with the people in social situations instead of focusing on your own behavior.
- Understand that you may not succeed each time you try. Feeling a little challenged is one of the ways to broaden your comfort zone, but if a situation is too challenging, its okay to take a step back.
These are all techniques you can try on your own or with a friend. For more severe social anxiety, the kind that would be considered a disorder, you may need more structured support. If you are struggling to manage your anxiety on your own, reach out to a trained mental health professional for help. If you dont know who to reach out to, text START to 741-741 or call 1-800-273-TALK for a free and confidential conversation.
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Set Clear Roles And Expectations
We all know a shy or introverted individual who lights up when performing on stage. Or we may work with a colleague who is awkward at small talk but is a top performer when set loose with clients. Why? Theres a clear role to play. For a socially anxious individual, structure can set them free.
Why? Anxiety is driven by uncertainty. Therefore, winging it is paralyzing. Improvising, especially in a public forum like a meeting, is daunting. Instead, capitalize on your employees strengths and let them excel in more structured roles. For example, your employee may struggle in an informal meet-and-greet but shine when leading a recurring training. They may dread a panel discussion but knock a scripted PowerPoint presentation out of the park. Match them with structured tasks that allow them to shine.
Likewise, for the socially anxious, there is no such thing as spitballing. Usually only an articulate, well-thought-out paragraph will do. To ensure you hear everyones ideas, offer alternative venues to public brainstorming. For instance, provide questions in advance of a meeting or offer a chance to weigh in by email later so they have a chance to express their ideas in a way thats comfortable to them.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy For Social Anxiety
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT is considered to be one of the leading psychological treatments for social anxiety. All of our online courses use CBT strategies to help ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. Click below to see if CBT can help you tackle your symptoms to improve the way you feel.
Strategies for Managing Symptoms of Social Anxiety
People with social anxiety disorder tend to overestimate the likelihood of being judged by other people and underestimate their own worth. Theyre often self-critical, can fixate on their own flaws, and constantly compare themselves to other people. They can also be hyperaware of and embarrassed by the physical symptoms of anxiety, like blushing, sweating, or trembling.
Cognitive strategies help people identify and challenge these kinds of thoughts, and learn new, more helpful ways of thinking. In doing so, these strategies help can people become more confident and self-compassionate.
Two key features of social anxiety are avoidance and safety behaviours. Avoidance is when you miss out on fun or important experiences because of anxiety, for example, skipping a friends birthday party or an important presentation at work because youre afraid of being judged. Safety behaviours are things you do that help you cope with anxiety, like having a few drinks before you get to a party.
Coping With Symptoms of Social Anxiety
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What Is It Like Having Social Anxiety Disorder
In school, I was always afraid of being called on, even when I knew the answers. I didnt want people to think I was stupid or boring. My heart would pound and I would feel dizzy and sick. When I got a job, I hated to meet with my boss or talk in a meeting. I couldnt attend my best friends wedding reception because I was afraid of having to meet new people. I tried to calm myself by drinking several glasses of wine before an event and then I started drinking every day to try to face what I had to do.
I finally talked to my doctor because I was tired of feeling this way and I was worried that I would lose my job. I now take medicine and meet with a counselor to talk about ways to cope with my fears. I refuse to use alcohol to escape my fears and Im on my way to feeling better.
What Happens When Someone Has Social Phobia
Extreme feelings of shyness and self-consciousness build into a powerful fear. As a result, a person feels uncomfortable participating in everyday social situations.
People with social phobia can usually interact easily with family and a few close friends. But meeting new people, talking in a group, or speaking in public can cause their extreme shyness to kick in.
With social phobia, a person’s extreme shyness, self-consciousness, and fears of embarrassment get in the way of life. Instead of enjoying social activities, people with social phobia might dread them and avoid some of them altogether.
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Prepare Positive Corrective Experiences
Outlining a plan for success is also an effective way to overcome social anxiety. The key to overcoming anxiety is having positive corrective experiences, Licensed Mental Health Therapist Jennifer Daffon explains. The best way to approach this is by identifying small steps toward target behavior so one can gain a sense of mastery over the feared stimulus. For example, when dealing with social anxiety, if one is fearful of meeting new people because they dont know what to say, a person can create a list outlining steps to eventually introducing themselves to someone new. A sample plan might be: First make eye contact with someone, then once comfortable doing that, wave at someone, then say hi and so on.
Take A Test To See How You Feel
If youre unsure about the way you feel, take our anonymous online test to check whether your levels of stress, anxiety, or depression are within a healthy range, and see if one of our online courses could help.
What Causes Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety doesnt have one specific cause. It generally develops from a complex combination of a few different factors, like genes, personality, and early life experiences.
Research suggests that theres a genetic component to social anxiety disorder. There isnt a set selection of genes that have been shown to cause social anxiety. However, it does seem to run in families and having a family member with social anxiety increases your chance of having this disorder as well.
Peoples early life experiences also influence the development of social anxiety. Experiencing situations that impact your confidence at a young age can be a risk factor for social anxiety, like overly critical parenting, bullying, or being excluded from important social groups. However, social anxiety can also develop in people who didnt have any significant negative experiences growing up.
Personality factors also contribute to social anxiety. Social anxiety is more common in people who are naturally shy or introverted. Personality traits like being perfectionistic and self-critical, or being a worrier, can also lead to social anxiety.
How To Deal With Social Anxiety
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