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How To Handle Social Anxiety

Symptoms Of Social Anxiety


Social anxiety is more than shyness. It’s a fear that does not go away and affects everyday activities, self confidence, relationships and work or school life.

Many people occasionally worry about social situations, but someone with social anxiety feels overly worried before, during and after them.

You may have social anxiety if you:

  • worry about everyday activities, such as meeting strangers, starting conversations, speaking on the phone, working or shopping
  • avoid or worry a lot about social activities, such as group conversations, eating with company and parties
  • always worry about doing something you think is embarrassing, such as blushing, sweating or appearing incompetent
  • find it difficult to do things when others are watching you may feel like you’re being watched and judged all the time
  • fear being criticised, avoid eye contact or have low self-esteem
  • often have symptoms like feeling sick, sweating, trembling or a pounding heartbeat
  • have panic attacks, where you have an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety, usually only for a few minutes

Many people with social anxiety also have other mental health issues, such as depression, generalised anxiety disorder or panic disorder.

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.

Authentic Ways To Deal With Social Anxiety In Any Situation

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For those of you who experience social anxiety, you know firsthand the isolation that follows. Being uncomfortable at social events, parties, and other gatherings, can affect your friendships or intimate relationships.

And relationships, both platonic and romantic, are one of the pillars of happiness. In fact, research has shown that positive relationships could be the single most determining factor to happiness.

So, having social anxiety can disrupt much more than your social life. Fortunately, you dont have to suffer for a lifetime because there are many ways to treat the disorder.

One way of reducing anxiety is the habit of mindfulness. If you’re interested to learn more, check out the book that teaches you several mindfulness techniques to make space for happiness and peace in your life.

Before providing ways on how to deal with social anxiety, let us explore the definition of this disorder.

What You Will Learn

  • Final Thoughts
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    How Can Social Phobia Affect Someone’s Life

    With social phobia, thoughts and fears about what others think get exaggerated in someone’s mind. The person starts to focus on the embarrassing things that could happen, instead of the good things. This makes a situation seem much worse than it is, and influences a person to avoid it.

    Some of the ways social phobia can affect someone’s life include:

    • Feeling lonely or disappointed over missed opportunities for friendship and fun. Social phobia might prevent someone from chatting with friends in the lunchroom, joining an after-school club, going to a party, or asking someone on a date.
    • Not getting the most out of school. Social phobia might keep a person from volunteering an answer in class, reading aloud, or giving a presentation. Someone with social phobia might feel too nervous to ask a question in class or go to a teacher for help.
    • Missing a chance to share their talents and learn new skills. Social phobia might prevent someone from auditioning for the school play, being in the talent show, trying out for a team, or joining in a service project. Social phobia not only prevents people from trying new things. It also prevents them from making the normal, everyday mistakes that help people improve their skills still further.
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    What Happens When Someone Has Social Phobia

    How to Cope at a Party When Anxiety is Your Plus

    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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    Look For Silver Linings And Be Kind To Yourself

    If your social anxiety isnt going away as fast as youd like, thats perfectly normal. It might be that you moved too fast and need to spend more time practicing other social encounters before youre up for the one youre stuck on, or you need to work more on relaxation techniques and distraction techniques so you can tolerate that situation next time, says Dr. Potter.

    Analyzing after the fact what triggered a reaction, whether a panic attack or something else, can also help. Try to break down, How can I think about that differently? or How can I change the situation next time? Dr. Potter suggests. Lets say you go to a concert and start to have a panic attack because youre enclosed in by a lot of people. Maybe next time, you might sit in the back or on an aisle, or stay somewhere where you feel like theres an exit route if you feel anxious or closed-in.Dr. Potter adds that other people are generally way more focused on themselves than they are on others. They are most likely not scrutinizing your behavior in social situations, because they are busy thinking about what they are going to say or do next, she says. Your anxiety usually magnifies the negative and minimizes the positive so the things youre acutely aware of about yourself may not be particularly noticeable to others.

    Get Good At Telling Stories

    They are the medium through which you will turn people into fans. The secret to telling stories, Horn says, exists in a technique he calls WWAVE:

    • W-Who is the protagonist and what happened to this person? “You should never tell a story, but only relive one,” he says.
    • W-What was said? It can be in your own head or a conversation you had with someone else.
    • A-Adversity–what is the struggle or problem you encountered?
    • V-Victory relates to identifying the moment when you overcame adversity.
    • E-Emotional context involves telling how it felt to overcome adversity, as well as how your idea empowered yourself or others.

    “These constructs are helpful because they give you a baseline of understanding about what you want to talk about, so that you can be fully present in conversation,” he says.

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    How Is Social Anxiety Disorder Treated

    If youre concerned you may have symptoms of social anxiety disorder, talk to a health care provider. After discussing your history, a health care provider may conduct a physical exam to ensure that an unrelated physical problem is not causing your symptoms. A health care provider may refer you to a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker. The first step to effective treatment is to get a diagnosis, usually from a mental health professional.

    Social anxiety disorder is generally treated with psychotherapy , medication, or both. Speak with a health care provider about the best treatment for you.

    What Is Social Anxiety Disorder Or Social Phobia

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    Many people get nervous or self-conscious on occasion, like when giving a speech or interviewing for a new job. But social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is more than just shyness or occasional nerves. Social anxiety disorder involves intense fear of certain social situationsespecially situations that are unfamiliar or in which you feel youll be watched or evaluated by others. These situations may be so frightening that you get anxious just thinking about them or go to great lengths to avoid them, disrupting your life in the process.

    Underlying social anxiety disorder is the fear of being scrutinized, judged, or embarrassed in public. You may be afraid that people will think badly of you or that you wont measure up in comparison to others. And even though you probably realize that your fears of being judged are at least somewhat irrational and overblown, you still cant help feeling anxious. But no matter how painfully shy you may be and no matter how bad the butterflies, you can learn to be comfortable in social situations and reclaim your life.

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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 introduce 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.

    You Really Need To Pull Yourself Together

    A colleague said this to me when she found me crying in the staff toilets at an event. She thought the tough love approach would help me snap out of it. However, not only did it not help, it made me feel more embarrassed and exposed. It confirmed that I was a freak and therefore needed to hide my condition.

    When faced with anxiety, the natural response from observers seems to be to encourage the person to calm down. Ironically, this only makes it worse. The sufferer is desperate to calm down, but is unable to do so.

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    Can Social Anxiety Be Avoided

    You can try to avoid social anxiety, or at least extreme cases of it, by taking gradual, small steps in social situations. You can start with something you can handle relatively well, like seeing a small group of 2 to 4 people in a casual setting and work your way up to tougher scenarios from there.

    This can help you build confidence and coping mechanisms to help you mitigate or avoid more severe social anxiety.

    Keep Things In Perspective

    Dealing With Social Anxiety
    • Remind yourself that people tend to pay a lot of attention to their own lives and far less than we think to other peoples lives. This means that people are very unlikely to be paying as much attention to the things you do or say as you think they are.
    • Remember that people make mistakes all the time. Even if you make a mistake, you are not the first person to, and you wont be the last.
    • Remind yourself that even if you do make a mistake, most people will still be there for you.
    • If your concern persists, check it out by sharing your worry with someone you trust and asking for feedback. Being direct like this can feel scary but truth is almost always kinder than your story!
    • Check out our article on tips for positive thinking for more affirmations.

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    Try An Herbal Supplement

    If you really feel like trying something medicinal, but aren’t yet ready to broach the topic of medication with your doctor or psychiatrist, consider trying an herbal supplement from your drug store.

    There are many herbal supplements that are used in managing anxiety however, it is important to know that herbal supplements are not regulated by the United States Food & Drug Administration the same way that traditional medications are evaluated. Be sure to read about any cautions, warnings or medication interactions before taking an herbal supplement.

    Ask Your Support System For A Helping Hand

    It can be embarrassing or humbling to admit to people in your life that youre anxious in social situations and might need help. However, letting a friend or loved one know you might need some extra support can be a major boost. Many times, people are going to feel more comfortable if theyre in a social situation with somebody that theyre close to, Dr. Potter says. Especially if somebody has been fairly isolated in recent times, it can be helpful at first to have a buddy when you go back into a social situation.

    The key to this support is helping an anxious person become more independent over time. Eventually, people with more generalized social anxiety will find it uncomfortable to go shopping or order food by themselves, Dr. Potter explains. You want to balance supporting a person and encouraging them to do it themselves.

    If youre a friend or family member of somebody anxious in social situations, one way to offer support is to bring them into the conversation. You might be like, Oh, I think Sara has something she would probably like to say on that subject. Shes really interested in that, Dr. Potter says. You can support them by bringing them out of their shells. Before doing that, however, be sure to ask the person if thats OK. If youre a person with social anxiety, you may not like being put on the spot to say something. Talk to that person in advance about how they want to handle certain things.

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    Talk With A Therapist

    Despite what some people might suggest, social anxiety goes beyond shyness, or feeling uneasy and nervous around new people. Social anxiety is a mental health condition, and its not always possible to work through symptoms yourself.

    You can do a lot on your own to manage the anxiety and distress you experience, but getting professional support is always a good place to start.

    A trained mental health professional can:

    • offer more insight on the difference between social anxiety and shyness
    • help you identify social anxiety triggers
    • teach helpful coping strategies, social skills, and relaxation techniques
    • offer guidance with challenging and replacing or reframing negative thoughts

    Therapy also offers a safe environment to practice navigating anxiety-provoking situations through graduated exposure, one potential treatment for social anxiety.

    Your therapist might recommend group therapy or support groups, which give you the chance to practice social skills and interact with other people also coping with social anxiety.

    A therapist can also refer you to a psychiatrist, who can prescribe medication for social anxiety. Medication can provide some relief from severe symptoms, making it easier to start working through them in therapy.

    Create Your Own Structure

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    Our anxieties can heighten in situations where theres a lot of uncertainty. Case in point: office parties. I personally dread them because Im always unsure of how to initiate conversations beyond my work life and be interesting at that. This lack of structure or predictability can feel unnerving, especially with big social groups.

    The advice here is to make a simple structure for yourself ahead of these situations. Pick three to four people that youd like to talk to. For instance, it could include your direct report, your boss, and the receptionist. A little structure can help you overthink less throughout the event.

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    Helping Children With Social Anxiety

    If your child is suffering from social anxiety, theyll need your support. There are many things you can do when youre:

    • at home with your child
    • at preschool or school with your child or in other social situations
    • talking with your child about their anxious feelings.

    At home

    • Prepare your child for situations that make them feel worried or fearful. Act out the situation at home and practise things they can do to make it easier.
    • Encourage your child to do some detective thinking. For example, your child might think that everyone will laugh at them if they answer a question in class. You could ask your child, How do you know theyll laugh?
    • Tell your child about times youve felt anxious in social situations and how youve faced your fears. This will help your child understand that its OK to talk about anxious feelings. Theyll also feel that you understand and support them.

    At preschool or school or in other social situations

    When talking with your child

    Simple Steps To Feeling More Socially Confident

    Social anxiety disorder is often misunderstood, and many people could be suffering in silence. Its much more than feeling shy and not wanting to speak up in big groups. It can really take control and impede your everyday life. Anxiety Care UK states that social anxiety is a common and distressing condition, with as many as 40 percent of the population suffering from it.

    Young People With Social Anxiety

    Experiencing social anxiety and fear of social interactions can make simple responsibilities almost impossible to overcome. An estimated 15 million American adults have social anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, with young adolescents who are transitioning to secondary school or college being particularly vulnerable. Its suggested that social anxiety disorder symptoms usually begin around the age of 13.

    The good news is that there are ways to develop new habits to help ease and overcome your social anxiety.

    1. Challenge your negative and anxious thoughts. At times it may feel like theres nothing you can do about the way you feel and how you think. In reality, though, there are a number of things that can help.

    4. Create an exposure hierarchy. Identify and rate how each social situation makes you feel in terms of anxiousness. For example, 0 would mean no anxiety, and 10 would be a full-blown panic attack.

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