Who To Talk To First
There are a couple of options for you to take. Many people might go see their general practitioner and discuss treatment options. This is definitely one way to go, although this individual might not be specialized in mental health disorders.
General practitioners are often able to prescribe mental health medication without the individual seeing a psychiatrist or counselor first. This works for some, but its usually best to see someone who is specialized in mental health disorders before you start thinking about treatment.
At the very least, ask your general practitioner to refer you to a counselor in your area. Its also possible to schedule an appointment with a counselor directly and just cut out the middle man.
Sitting down with someone will give you the opportunity to talk for an hour or so about what youre experiencing. Keep in mind that this person is trained to listen and understand the mental difficulties that others are having, so what youre saying probably fits closely with things theyve heard before.
That means you can feel free to describe whats actually going on in your head without judgment. In fact, the more honest you are, the better your odds of getting an accurate diagnosis and better therapy as a result.
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.
Talk Back To Negative Thoughts
These thoughts might be about people or situations, and they may even be automatic. Most of the time, theyâre wrong. But they can cause you to misread things like facial expressions. This could lead you to assume people are thinking things about you that they arenât.
One way to do this is simply to use pen and paper:
Hereâs a broad example:
- Negative thought: âThis situation makes me so anxious, I wonât be able to deal with it.â
- Challenge: âIâve felt anxious before but Iâve always gotten through it. Iâll do my best to focus on the positive parts of the experience.â
Don’t Miss: Why Does Anxiety Make Your Chest Hurt
Stop Keeping It A Secret
With social anxiety comes a lot of shame. Your worst fear is that other people will find out just how anxious you are in social situations. Why not start simply being honest? You don’t have to come right out and tell perfect strangers that you suffer from severe social anxiety, but you can start small and mention to those closest to you that certain situations make you anxious. Over time, you might even become comfortable enough to share your whole story.
Talking To A Health Care Provider About Your Mental Health
Communicating well with a health care provider can improve your care and help you both make good choices about your health. Find tips to help prepare for and get the most out of your visit at Taking Control of Your Mental Health: Tips for Talking With Your Health Care Provider. For additional resources, including questions to ask a provider, visit the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website.
If you or someone you know is in immediate distress or is thinking about hurting themselves,call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800-273-TALK . You also can text the Crisis Text Line or use the Lifeline Chat on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.
Recommended Reading: How Anxiety Affects The Body
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
Consider Challenging Negative Self
Have you noticed how you talk to yourself? Are you perhaps in the habit of putting yourself down? Identifying these thoughts can help you change them. Changing the way you think has a direct effect on how you feel and how you behave.
The first step is to examine your thoughts and identify when you say negative things to yourself. For example, Im so awkward, or, Everyone hates me.
Once you do, try to replace the thoughts with more balanced thoughts that are grounded in reality.
- I am wanted here, I have people who love and care about me.
- I am capable of enduring this stress.
- I have the power to leave anytime I choose to.
- I am choosing to spend time with safe, trustworthy people.
- Even if others are looking my way, I am perfectly fine.
- Others are most likely not paying attention to what I do. I am OK.
Eventually, the negative thoughts will not speak as loudly, says Donna T. Novak, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in Simi Valley, California.
You May Like: How To Help My Teenager With Anxiety
Tip : Face Your Fears
One of the most helpful things you can do to overcome social anxiety is to face the social situations you fear rather than avoid them. Avoidance keeps social anxiety disorder going. While avoiding nerve-wracking situations may help you feel better in the short term, it prevents you from becoming more comfortable in social situations and learning how to cope in the long term. In fact, the more you avoid a feared social situation, the more frightening it becomes.
Avoidance can also prevent you from doing things youd like to do or reaching certain goals. For example, a fear of speaking up may prevent you from sharing your ideas at work, standing out in the classroom, or making new friends.
While it may seem impossible to overcome a feared social situation, you can do it by taking it one small step at a time. The key is to start with a situation that you can handle and gradually work your way up to more challenging situations, building your confidence and coping skills as you move up the anxiety ladder.
For example, if socializing with strangers makes you anxious, you might start by accompanying an outgoing friend to a party. Once youre comfortable with that step, you might try introducing yourself to one new person, and so on. To work your way up a social anxiety ladder:
Dont try to face your biggest fear right away. Its never a good idea to move too fast, take on too much, or force things. This may backfire and reinforce your anxiety.
How To Support A Loved One Experiencing Social Anxiety
Social phobia is often termed the ‘silent’ disorder as it can go undetected by those around them or is confused with shyness or introversion. However, it can have a profound impact on the person suffering from it.If you know someone who you think might be suffering from social anxiety disorder or social phobia, there are ways you can help.
If you can talk to the person about it, doing so might help both of you understand more about their anxiety, what goes through their mind, and how they behave in certain situations. The person suffering may feel very isolated, and being listened to can be an important part of the healing process.
There are lots of resources and information about social anxiety disorder and social phobia online. Learning as much as you can about it yourself, including the signs and symptoms and the best methods of treatment, will help you understand what theyâre going through and what might help them.
One of the first steps is to encourage them to seek help from a GP. The GP will be able to refer them for treatment, which will ultimately help them recover.
Don’t Miss: When Is Anxiety A Problem
Social Anxiety In Children
Social anxiety can also affect children.
Signs of social anxiety in a child include:
- crying more than usual
- frequently complaining of feeling unwell – nausea, headaches, dizziness
- having frequent tantrums before a social event or activity
- avoiding interaction and eye contact with other children and adults
- fear of going to school or taking part in classroom activities or events
- not asking for help at school
- being very reliant on their parents or carer
Speak to your GP if you’re worried about your child. Your GP will ask you about your child’s problems and talk to them about how they feel.
Treatments for social anxiety in children are like those for teenagers and adults. The use of medication depends on the age of the child and the severity of their experience of social anxiety.
Therapy will depend on your child’s age and will often involve help from you. You may get training and self-help materials to use between sessions. It may also take place in a small group.
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.
What Is A Panic Attack
As the name implies, you panic and are overcome with an intense fear that can trigger various physical reactions. Although it seems like you are in danger, oftentimes, you are not.
Some signs of a panic attack include:
- Rapid heart rate
Once youve assessed that youre having a panic attack, there are a variety of tactics you can implement to try and regulate your nervous system. Here are some of my personal favorites that may work for you, too.
Brain Areas Involved In Anxiety
- The limbic system
- The prefrontal cortex
- The motor cortex
A study of blood flow in the brain published in 2001 found differences in the brains of social phobics when speaking in public. For this study, they used a type of neuroimaging called Positron Emission Tomography .
The PET images showed that people with social anxiety disorder had increased blood flow in their amygdala, a part of the limbic system associated with fear.
In contrast, the PET images of people without SAD showed increased blood flow to the cerebral cortex, an area associated with thinking and evaluation. It seems that or people with social anxiety disorder, the brain reacts to social situations differently than people without the disorder.
Give Yourself Permission To Feel Without Judgment & Communicate Your Needs To Others
Another incredibly important factor in these moments is to accept ourselves without judgment. Sometimes, things make us panic. Sometimes, our nervous system malfunctions. Point being, we can have an anxiety or panic attack from a triggering situation like being overwhelmed or without any real reason.
And if your panic attack happens in front of others you couldnt flee the office or get-together and people saw it try to forgive yourself. It happens. Our bodies are screaming at us to fix something, even if it isnt something that can be fixed right away. So work to honor yourself, and your body, in these moments.
Ive found that I give myself more patience and can set boundaries more easily when Im more accepting of my limitations. Ensure youre communicating your needs to the best of your ability with others, too . And if you need to ask for help, do so.
Also, remember to work on accepting your moments of panic so you can work through them. Theyre not something to get over, but they are something to get through. Overall, we are not our worst moments, and theres always room to learn and forgive.
Recommended Reading: How To Heal Depression And Anxiety Without Medication
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.
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:
Recommended Reading: Can You Get Anxiety Medication Over The Counter
Unhelpful Thinking Styles That Fuel Social Anxiety
Ask yourself if youre engaging in any of the following unhelpful thinking styles:
- Mind reading Assuming you know what other people are thinking, and that they see you in the same negative way that you see yourself.
- Fortune telling Predicting the future, usually while assuming the worst will happen. You just know that things will go horribly, so youre already anxious before youre even in the situation.
- Catastrophizing Blowing things out of proportion. For example, if people notice that youre nervous, it will be awful, terrible, or disastrous.
- Personalizing Assuming that people are focusing on you in a negative way or that whats going on with other people has to do with you.
Come With Conversation Starters
A person with social anxiety tends to panic about not having anyone to talk to at an event or not being able to get past an introduction and into a real conversation. So come prepared with a handful of topics you feel comfortable talking about, Dr. Saltz suggested, from the last great movie you saw to politics.
Another idea is to rehearse a few introductory lines in front of a mirror or with a friend before the party so that you know exactly how you’ll initiate chats about your chosen subjects. And when in doubt at the party, ask questions people like to talk about themselves. “How do you know the host?” is always a solid opener.
You May Like: What Does Anxiety Feel Like In Your Chest
When To Get Help For Social Anxiety
It’s a good idea to see a GP if you think you have social anxiety, especially if it’s having a big impact on your life.
It’s a common problem and there are treatments that can help.
Asking for help can be difficult, but a GP will be aware that many people struggle with social anxiety and will try to put you at ease.
They’ll ask you about your feelings, behaviours and symptoms to find out about your anxiety in social situations.
If they think you could have social anxiety, you’ll be referred to a mental health specialist to have a full assessment and talk about treatments.
You can also refer yourself directly to an NHS psychological therapies service without a referral from a GP.
Causes And Risk Factors
The causes of social anxiety disorder are complex. They are likely to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Social anxiety disorder typically starts early in life, during a personâs adolescence or teenage years, but it can affect people of all ages. The condition is in females than males.
Possible causes and risk factors include:
- Genetics: Anxiety disorders can run in families, so there may be a genetic component at play.
- Adverse life events: Stressful or traumatic events â such as abuse, violence, the death of a loved one, or a prolonged illness â may increase the risk of an anxiety disorder. Previous bullying, humiliation, or rejection can also increase the risk.
- Parenting styles: Some
Recommended Reading: What Kind Of Doctor To See For Anxiety