What Is Selective Mutism
Some kids and teens are so extremely shy and so fearful about talking to others, that they don’t speak at all to some people or in certain places . This form of social phobia is sometimes called selective mutism.
People with selective mutism can talk. They have completely normal conversations with the people they’re comfortable with or in certain places. But other situations cause them such extreme anxiety that they may not be able to bring themselves to talk at all.
Some people might mistake their silence for a stuck-up attitude or rudeness. But with selective mutism and social phobia, silence stems from feeling uncomfortable and afraid, not from being uncooperative, disrespectful, or rude.
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.
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.
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Why Do Some People Develop Social Phobia
Kids, teens, and adults can have social phobia. Most of the time, it starts when a person is young. Like other anxiety-based problems, social phobia develops because of a combination of three factors:
The good news is that the effect of these negative experiences can be turned around with some focused slow-but-steady effort. Fear can be learned. And it can also be unlearned, too.
Recognizing Social Anxiety And Getting Treatment
If you have social anxiety or generalized anxiety that’s triggered by social interaction, even the best tactics may not feel like enough. If you’re not sure if you have social anxiety, look for the following signs:
- Avoidance behavior: You avoid social events and interactions as much as possible.
- Escape behaviors: You often leave events, such as parties, dinners or concerts, shortly after arriving due to anxious feelings.
- Safety behaviors: You feel like you always need a distraction during social events. For example, you may always have a drink or plate of food at a party, or you feel the need to always play on your phone during casual events.
- Physical symptoms: In social settings, you start to sweat, feel dizzy or light-headed, get a stomach ache, or experience other physical symptoms alongside feelings of anxiousness.
- Premeditated anxiety: You make yourself nervous before even arriving at an event by thinking things like “I’m going to mess up” or “I don’t have anything to talk about.”
According to the Social Anxiety Association, only cognitive behavioral therapy is proven to effectively and permanently treat social anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy involves changing the thought and behavior patterns behind your difficulties. If you already have a therapist, you can also discuss medication if you think it might help.
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What Causes Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder sometimes runs 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. Some researchers think that misreading of others behavior may play a role in causing or worsening social anxiety. For example, you may think that people are staring or frowning at you when they truly are not. Underdeveloped social skills are another possible contributor to social anxiety. For example, if you have underdeveloped social skills, you may feel discouraged after talking with people and may worry about doing it in the future. By learning more about fear and anxiety in the brain, scientists may be able to create better treatments. Researchers are also looking for ways in which stress and environmental factors may play a role.
Think About Something Funny
Visualize your favorite humorous moments, says Sultanoff. One where you laughed so hard you fell down and peed your pants. These can be real situations, or they can be situations you saw on sitcoms, in stories, jokes, or cartoons.
If its difficult for you to come up with something in the moment, try picking a couple of memories ahead of time, so you can go to them as soon as you start experiencing anxiety.
Like most mindfulness training, humor visualization takes you out of worrying about things that might happen in the future and focuses you back in your present circumstances, in the now.
It does a few other things too. You experience mirth, which is the uplifting reaction to humor, explains Sultanoff. You feel emotions such as joy, pleasure, or delight all powerful emotions that can help you reduce anxiety quickly.
And if youre able to make yourself laugh by remembering that funny moment, he says, humor visualization is even more effective.
When you laugh, you contract and expand muscles, which reduces physical anxiety, stress, and tension, he says.
Laughter also combats the production of cortisol levels in the body, he adds.
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Mental Health Benefits Of Going Green
When people talk about going green, they often focus on the benefits that being eco-friendly has for the environment, such as reducing waste and lowering energy consumption. Turns out, these lifestyle changes can also improve your mental wellbeing.
Shopping more responsibly, reusing or repurposing used items, when possible, recycling when not, and consuming less energy not only lowers your environmental footprint but also anxiety and stress levels.
Keeping these benefits in mind helps you maintain your motivation to live more sustainably in the long term.
Energy Therapies That Heal Trauma
Okay, this one is controversial, but Im going to include it here anyway because its really interesting.
Trauma is not just something that happens to people who go to war or get attacked in the street. Milder forms of trauma can happen to almost anybody in childhood. And many scientists have already studied the link between social anxiety and childhood trauma:
Studies investigating childhood trauma in social anxiety suggest that parental emotional abuse towards the child and emotional neglect may be important factors in the development of SAD.
For example, in a non-clinical sample, compared to women with low levels of social anxiety, women high in social anxiety reported significantly more paternal rejection, paternal and maternal neglect, and paternal authority-discipline.
These types of early childhood experiences of abuse or neglect can cause someone to feel ashamed, insecure or deeply flawed as a person. I talk a lot about this in my social anxiety system and in my toxic shame video here. Trauma comes from disturbing memories int he past that create a psychoenergetic block inside you that affects your life and relationships with people today.
So how to deal with it? Well theres 2 interesting approaches I can share:
EMDR is a type of therapy where you focus on the traumatic memory while moving your eyes side to side. This eye movement is supposed to allow you to reprocess the past trauma.
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Check In With Yourself
When youre out in public and start feeling anxious, its easy to spiral and become fixated on everything that appears to be going wrong, even if youre the only one feeling that way. In the moment, you need to focus outside of yourself and remind yourself, This is probably anxiety. I cant read their mind. I do not know what theyre actually thinking of me, Dr. Potter says.
This is easier said than done, of course, so she suggests using a technique called five senses that can help you regain perspective and stay in the moment. Do a check-in with yourself of all of your five senses to get yourself more externally focused. Distract yourself from unpleasant internal sensations and negative thoughts, says Dr. Potter. Then you can try to refocus on: What are they actually saying to me? What else is going on right now? What can I see? What can I hear? What can I feel?
How To Calm Down Quickly
Something sets you off, and before long, you feel stuck in an endless loop of intrusive thoughts, pondering every possible thing that could go wrong. Your body tenses, your breathing quickens, and you can hear your heartbeat pounding in your ears.
When you feel anxiety kick in like this, its time to calm yourself down. The first step is awareness. Its a good idea to learn to recognize the first signs of anxiety and get to work right away before experiencing an episode.
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Get Help If You Need It
Although there is a lot you can do to support yourself, its also okay to ask for help. Talking therapy can help a lot, and if you need it you can also get medication that helps.
Find a counsellor or therapist or a psychologist or a clinical psychologist and talk to your doctor about whether medication would help you. It can be helpful to ask if the health professional is trained in cognitive behaviour therapy, as this is currently the treatment of choice for social anxiety.
How To Calm Social Anxiety
Tips for dealing with shyness, nervousness and intimidation in public.
Social anxiety makes it feel like all eyes are on you, all the time — but you can calm anxiety in social settings with these tips.
Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, but for most people, it’s situational. For example, you may experience anxiety when you have an important presentation coming up at work. For others, however, generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder can seriously interfere with everyday activities. Situations as simple as getting lunch with coworkers or meeting a new person can trigger intense feelings of self-doubt, embarrassment, inhibition and more. Calming anxiety in social settings can feel impossible, but with the right tactics, you’ll be well on your way to fully enjoying social atmospheres.
What Are The Causes Of Social Anxiety
There doesnt seem to be one cause of problems with anxiety, but there are several factors that might play a part in developing anxiety in social situations.
- A specific incident or event if you experienced shame or humiliation in a particular situation, you may develop anxiety about similar situations or experiences that you associate with that event.
- Family environment parents who were very worried or anxious when you were growing up can have an effect on the way you cope with anxiety in later life, and you may even develop the same anxiety as a parent or older sibling.
- Genetics some people appear to be born with a tendency to be more anxious than others, which can develop into an anxiety disorder.
- Long-term stress this can cause feelings of anxiety and depression, and reduce your perceived ability to cope in particular situations. This can make you feel more fearful or anxious about being in those situations again, and over a long period, may increase your anxiety about those situations.
When Youre Unlikely To Meet Realistic Expectations
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may not achieve what youd hoped to, but these strategies can help you improve for the future.
Be better prepared.For example, if youre scared about an upcoming meeting, would it help to make an extra effort in preparing for it, whether by reading, writing, or talking with someone? If youre nervous about a first date, prepare a couple of conversation starters such as, What do you enjoy doing for fun? or Do you want to tell me about your family? Be prepared to answer those questions yourself.
Accept your right to be flawed. Realize that you have a right to speak your truth even if imperfect or not well-received.
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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.
What Keeps It Going
Thoughts: Certain thoughts tend to kick in when you enter a social situation and will make you anxious. These include:
- rules for yourself – I always have to look clever and in control
- beliefs about yourself – I’m boring
- predictions about the future – If someone gets to know me, they will see how inadequate I am.
They make you think about and criticise – your behaviour from moment to moment. Such thoughts are so automatic that they feel true to you although there is often no evidence for them at all. They can make you imagine that you appear to other people in a certain – usually rather unattractive way. Ths is almost certainly very different from the way that people actually do see you.
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