Buy Yourself A New Outfit
Retail therapy is obviously no cure for social anxiety, but sometimes clothing really can make you feel like a new person with a new attitude. Try to get yourself out of a rut by purchasing something outside your comfort zone. Choose a unique accent piece both to try something new and to give others a conversation starter when they first meet you.
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 programs 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
What is CBT?
Signs And Symptoms Of Social Anxiety
People often think social anxiety is just a feeling, but it actually has four components: thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and behaviors. Most people might begin recognizing their social anxiety when they notice nervousness also is accompanied by physical symptoms such as trembling and crying. When youre anxious, the four components interact with and build upon each other, causing a cycle of anxiety. For example, heres how your anxiety might manifest itself if youre nervous about giving a presentation at work:
Thoughts: Often, your anxiety will begin with a negative thought, such as Im going to screw up or People will think Im stupid.
Feelings: These thoughts cause you to feel negative emotions, such as stress or worry.
Physical Response: Your body reacts to your negative thoughts and feelings with a physical response, such as blushing, sweating or shaking.
Behaviors: You try reducing your anxiety with conscious or unconscious actions, such as averting your gaze or hiding behind the podium . Acting this way may make you think everyone else notices you look stiff , which then can cause you to feel even more stressed .
People with social anxiety often dont realize when their behavior is being driven by anxiety. People with social anxiety tend to exhibit three types of behaviors:
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Fears Of Perceived Threats In Social Situations
The irrational beliefs that accompany social anxiety usually revolve around fearfear of being judged by others, fear of humiliation, fear of being embarrassed, fear of offending someone or fear of being the center of attention, Parmely says. To avoid confronting these pent-up fears, she explains, people with social anxiety avoid social situations such as going to school or work, starting conversations, eating in front of people, using public restrooms, entering rooms, going to parties, dating, speaking in public, talking to strangers, and making eye contact.
Map Your Social Anxiety Triggers
As much as you may struggle with social anxiety, its important to remind yourself that youre not always socially anxious.
There are likely certain people in your life you do feel comfortable around. And there are probably plenty of non-social times throughout your day when youre not in the grips of social anxiety.
I say this for two reasons:
One of the reasons social anxiety can be so overwhelming is that it becomes an automatic process.
Heres an example:
Now, simply managing the triggers of your social anxiety isnt going to completely eliminate them.
But Ive found that its a very useful first step because it can seriously take the edge off your anxietyenough to be able to start implementing some of the strategies which target the core maintaining causes of your social anxiety directly.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Social Anxiety Disorder
When having to perform in front of or be around others, people with social anxiety disorder may:
- Blush, sweat, or tremble.
- Have a rapid heart rate.
- Feel their mind going blank, or feel sick to their stomach.
- Have a rigid body posture, or speak with an overly soft voice.
- Find it difficult to make eye contact, be around people they dont know, or talk to people in social situations, even when they want to.
- Feel self-consciousness or fear that people will judge them negatively.
- Avoid places where there are other people.
Spend More Time Around People Who Appreciate You
For some reason, people with social anxiety have this tendency to spend a lot of time with and around people they dont actually enjoy being around.
- You really dont enjoy the people you work with, but youve got it into your head that you should enjoy spending time with them.
- So youre constantly stuck in this push-pull dynamic of telling yourself you should go to these social events you dont actually want to go to, then feeling anxious about it, then berating yourself for not wanting to go, etc.
- And then, when you do hang out with these people, you dont enjoy it, it quickly gets awkward and you start feeling anxious, and then you start criticizing yourself for being anxious and internalizing the whole thing as all the fault of your damn social anxiety.
Look, overcoming social anxiety doesnt mean that you magically start loving to spend time with everyone on Earth. And its completely normal to simply not enjoy certain peoples company, and as a result, avoid spending more time with them than you have to!
Just because you want to overcome social anxiety doesnt mean you have to constantly push yourself to spend all your time in socially draining situations.
In fact, the opposite is often true: It can be very helpful to give yourself permission not to spend time with certain people. And instead, use that time to hang out with people you actually enjoy and people who appreciate you exactly for who you are.
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What Causes Social Anxiety
Like a lot of important questions in life, What causes social anxiety? is a more complicated question than wed like.
For one thing, different forms of social anxiety are likely to have different causes.
- If you struggle with social anxiety at workparticularly with imposter syndrome and feeling like other people are about to discover how big a fraud you really arethat may be caused primarily by perfectionism and a mental habit of self-criticism and comparing yourself to others.
- On the other hand, if your social anxiety tends to crop up in the context of romantic relationships and having a hard time being emotionally vulnerable, that might stem from your experiences as a child seeing how poorly one of your parents was treated when they expressed emotion in the context of a relationship.
I bring this up because its unwise to hang onto the idea that theres one cause of social anxiety. And that if you just figure that out, youll be able to crack the code and end your struggle with it.
More than likely your social anxiety has very different causes than your mothers social anxiety, which has different causes than your bosss social anxiety.
Of course, that doesnt mean there arent common factors in what causes social anxiety that many people share. There are! But the point is theres no way to shortcut the hard work of identifying the unique causes of your social anxiety.
Tips For Dealing With Social Anxiety
Many self-help techniques such as physical activity, breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and writing can help reduce anxiety. You can use self-help strategies on your own or in addition to other treatments.
Social anxiety is unique to each person. Therefore, the more you know about your thoughts, feelings, and reactions, the better the tips and tools will work for you.
The following three steps can help you learn more about your social anxiety:
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Talk About Your Social Anxiety More
This one sounds intimidating but its also really powerful!
Im sure you saw Talk about your social anxiety more and thought something along the lines of Yeah, right! Being socially anxious is hard enough without sharing it with other people at the same time!
I get it.
But, the psychology of social anxiety is pretty counterintuitive in this respect.
First of all, talking about your social anxiety will help you feel less alone. WAY more people than you would imagine suffer with social anxiety. Seriously, many of the people you interact with on a daily or weekly basis likely also have some social anxiety but are just good at hiding it.
See, when you start being a little more open about the fact that you struggle with social anxiety, you open the door for other people to share that they do as well. And when it happens, its often profoundly validating and relieving to know first-hand that other people struggle like you do.
But when you acknowledge and express upfront that you tend to get a little anxious in social situations you A) immediately disarm other people by being vulnerable, and B) take off that entire second layer of pressure to not appear anxious.
Thanks to Michelle Cadieux for inspiring this section!
How To Reduce Negative Thoughts
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Spend Time With Confident Friends
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn is well known for saying, You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
In general, this is often true. If you spend time with confident people, or at least people working on improving their confidence, then they will influence and encourage you to develop your social skills. Spend time with people who possess traits you admire.
Tips For Making Friends Even If Youre Shy Or Socially Awkward
No matter how awkward or nervous you feel in the company of others, you can learn to silence self-critical thoughts, boost your self-esteem, and become more confident and secure in your interactions with others. You dont have to change your personality. By simply learning new skills and adopting a different outlook you can overcome your fears and anxiety and build rewarding friendships.
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What Causes Social Anxiety Disorder
Risk for social anxiety disorder may run in families, but no one knows for sure why some family members have it while others dont. Researchers have found that several parts of the brain are involved in fear and anxiety and that genetics influences how these areas function. By studying how the brain and body interact in people with social anxiety disorder, researchers may be able to create more targeted treatments. In addition, researchers are looking at the ways stress and environmental factors play a role in the disorder.
How To Overcome Social Anxiety
This article was co-authored by Donna Novak, Psy.D. Dr. Donna Novak is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist based in Simi Valley, California. With over ten years of experience, Dr. Novak specializes in treating anxiety and relationship and sex concerns. She holds a BA in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Alliant International University-Los Angeles. Dr. Novak uses a differentiation model in treatment that focuses on personal growth by increasing self-awareness, personal motivation, and confidence.There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 100% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 482,716 times.
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Nervous Address Itor Rewire Your Brain
Anxiety is fairly common but its a weakness you can easily address. Something in your nervous system learned that you might die in social situations. Of course, its wrong, but it doesnt know that. So you feel like youre going to die at some level, which explains why social anxiety can feel like the end of the world.
The fix for this is at a minimum to recognize it and to take some deep breaths, rather than to believe the feeling. You can also openly own your anxiety. Humans are good at picking up on discomfort, so you wont fool anyone if you try to play it cool. If youre asking someone out, for example, you could say something like I dont usually do this and Im a little nervous, but do you want to get dinner with me? It shows vulnerability and honesty, which is much more endearing than trying to disguise your emotions.
The next thing to consider is reprogramming. I recommend you do one of three things :
- Find a therapist with EMDR skills and do a few sessions. EMDR is a rapid way to get your nervous system to have more appropriate responses to social settings.
- You can get the deepest change with neurofeedback, which requires a competent neurofeedback trainer in your area. You can get moderate improvements with home neurofeedback.
Make It A Competition
Do you have a competitive nature? If so, could you make a sport out of trying to overcome your social anxiety? If you clam up at dinner parties, try over-preparing with interesting stories to tell.
Try to ask every person at least one question. Keep track of how many times you speak and give yourself points. Make it a game!
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Why Does It Happen
Like most mental health conditions, it is believed that social anxiety disorder is caused by a complex interaction between biological and environmental factors.
For one, anxiety disorders are believed to run in families. If you have a family member with anxiety, it may put you at a predisposition to develop it.
Additionally, social anxiety is thought to be a learned behavior. If you experienced an unpleasant or embarrassing event in a social context, you may start to associate social interactions with the humiliation of that isolated event.
Finally, brain scans revealed that people with social anxiety disorder have hyperactivity in the amygdala, which is the area of the brain responsible for the physiological changes associated with fear and the stress response. Activation of the stress response can cause immense anxiety and stress in the face of perceived danger, even if actual danger isnt present.
Getting To The Roots Of Your Social Anxiety
The first step is to understand exactly what causes your social anxiety. Where does it stem from? Licensed Psychotherapist Christine Scott-Hudson delves into anxiety as a biological response to perceived threats. When you struggle with anxiety, your amygdala gets hijacked and your bodys natural defenses are employed, whether there is actual danger present or not. Your brain and your body are just trying to keep you safe. However, the ways in which they attempt to keep you safe are also designed to help you fight, flight, or freeze to escape the danger, she says.
In the case of social anxiety, your body is as terrified of the public speaking event as it would be if you were being chased by a mountain lion, she continues. And your natural bodily defenses against these stressors are largely biologically hardwired. There is some matter of choice if we address the fear using bottom-up practices, meaning beginning with the lower, more primitive brain on up to the higher cortical functions. Many clients with ongoing anxiety create a small bag of useful items to help them ground when they start to feel that amygdala dysregulation happen. You can think ahead and carry a few items with you that serve to remind this older, reptilian part of your brain that you are actually okay and safe.
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Stop Complaining And Blaming
Perhaps you were dealt a bad hand in life. Maybe you had a controlling mother or a father who put you down. Although these life experiences may have contributed to your social anxiety, you don’t need to let them continue to influence the course of your life. Start taking responsibility for your actions and behavior.