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What To Do When Social Anxiety Kicks In

How Do You Know If You Have Both

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Think about how you feel after social interactions. Do you feel good about yourself or bad about yourself?

Keep in mind that everyone deals with awkward social interactions from time to time. How you handle and cope with these interactions can determine whether youre dealing with mental health challenges.

A person who doesnt have social anxiety can usually brush off an awkward social moment and move on.

For someone living with social anxiety, however, the fear of embarrassment and genuine anxiety may feel too intense to even deal with a social situation. If you do find yourself in a social setting, you may feel like youre being watched and judged the whole time.

If you suspect youre dealing with symptoms of social anxiety, depression, or both, try to talk with a doctor or mental health expert. They can help you understand your symptoms and point you toward the best type of treatment.

Treatments are available to improve social anxiety and depression. If youre diagnosed with both, your doctor may choose a therapy that works for both conditions.

What Fears Are Involved

With social phobia, a person’s fears and concerns are focused on their social performance whether it’s a major class presentation or small talk at the lockers.

People with social phobia tend to feel self-conscious and uncomfortable about being noticed or judged by others. They’re more sensitive to fears that they’ll be embarrassed, look foolish, make a mistake, or be criticized or laughed at. No one wants to go through these things. But most people don’t really spend much time worrying about it. The fear and anxiety are out of proportion to the situation.

What To Do If Your Social Anxiety Is Ruining Your Life

The advice in this guide is based on a type of therapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT. Psychologists often use CBT with clients who have social anxiety disorder but you can also try it by yourself.

The main idea behind CBT is that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors all influence one another. If you have social anxiety, they can keep you trapped in a negative cycle that stops you from socializing.

For example:

  • You think, Im an awkward loner, and no one wants me around.
  • You feel too embarrassed to be around others because you think they will all reject you.
  • This affects your behavior. You avoid going out and talking to other people. Because you dont start conversations or interact with anyone, you dont make any friends.
  • You take this as proof that you are a loner, and so the cycle continues. You become increasingly isolated, and your anxiety gets worse.

To break free from this kind of pattern, you need to:

  • Identify and conquer your negative thoughts
  • Expose yourself to uncomfortable social situations
  • Learn to cope with feelings of anxiety
  • Focus outwards rather than inwards
  • Raise your self-esteem

Research shows that self-help can teach you how to cope with social anxiety. This article will give you some self-help techniques that will show you how to feel more comfortable in social situations and improve your social skills. Youll also learn how and when to get professional advice.

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When Is Anxiety A Mental Health Problem

Anxiety can become a mental health problem if it impacts your ability to live your life as fully as you want to. For example, it may be a problem if:

  • your feelings of anxiety are very strong or last for a long time
  • your fears or worries are out of proportion to the situation
  • you avoid situations that might cause you to feel anxious
  • your worries feel very distressing or are hard to control
  • you regularly experience symptoms of anxiety, which could include panic attacks
  • you find it hard to go about your everyday life or do things you enjoy.

If your symptoms fit a particular set of medical criteria then you might be diagnosed with a particular anxiety disorder. But it’s also possible to experience problems with anxiety without having a specific diagnosis. Our pages on self-care and treatment for anxiety offer suggestions for help and support.

Try Exercise Or Progressive Muscle Relaxation

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Research shows that certain physical activities like jogging can help lower your anxiety. Progressive muscle relaxation can help, too. This means flexing and releasing groups of muscles in your body and keeping your attention on the feeling of the release.

Yoga can also help you calm down. Certain types involve deep breathing, so they can help lower your blood pressure and heart rate. Studies show that doing yoga for a few months can help lower overall anxiety. In fact, just one class may improve mood and anxiety.

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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.

Tackle Small Social Interactions Often

“Taking small steps to win against anxiety helps desensitize how scary socializing can be,” says Gross. Give yourself small challenges this week, start three small conversations, or force yourself to run a phone conference at work. “Just commenting on the weather to the supermarket clerk helps you experience success,” he explains. “Over time, you build and become more ambitious in what you’re achieving.”

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Coping With Anxiety Triggers

If you have mild to moderate social anxiety, several self-help strategies, including relaxation strategies as well as self-talk can make daily living more manageable.

Many people with social anxiety disorder lack assertiveness and can also benefit from practicing to communicate their needs in a calm and relaxing way. Learning to be more assertive will make it easier to ask for any accommodations at work or school to help ease your anxiety for example, asking for a podium or pitcher of water if you need to give a speech or presentation.

Preparation is also a crucial part of coping with anxiety triggers. For instance, you can set a time limit for yourself before you go to a party or come up with a script to prepare for any small talk during a first date.

Most importantly, you can help yourself by being patient with yourself while you work toward identifying your personal triggers and exploring ways to prevent them from disrupting your daily life.

Being Confident In Who You Are Even If Your Voice Shakes

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In the workplace, extroversion and confidence are often rewarded. Having social anxiety can result in a cycle of stress around all social interactions. But remember that many of us have insecurities or parts of our identity that can affect the way we show up in our profession and learning to cope is an important part of your professional development.

Do you deal with social anxiety in the workplace? Share your tips with us on Facebook and let others know they are not alone.

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Having A Socially Anxious Moment Can Cause A Mind Blank Followed By A Serious Spiral Of Awkwardness

When your body senses fear and your sympathetic nervous system kicks in, you can actually lose your ability to concentrate or remember, Pike explains. People then get on a continuous feedback loop, where because they blank out, have an awkward interaction, and then go home and rehash it and kick themselves and feel horrible for having blanked out, they become so apprehensive of the next time, says Pike. Then the anxiety just compounds. If this happens to your friend, just be calm and let them feel anxious and gather their thoughts without pushing.

Give Yourself A Pep Talk

Work anxiety is often rooted in fear the fear that you’ll mess up, embarrass yourself, or bother your coworkers. Though it can be easy to let those thoughts dominate your time in the office, Wind challenges you to kick any negativity to the curb. “Don’t fixate on thoughts that you’re going to fail your interview or bomb the presentation,” he explains. “Don’t let your inner critic tell you that you’re the only problem in this situation. The workplace is a stressful setting for everyone.”

Instead of worrying about that big presentation, remind yourself that you’re thoroughly prepared and know what you’re talking about. Or, if you’re nervous about meeting new coworkers, remember that all you have to do is be yourself .

If you want to keep that positivity going all day long, recite a mantra when you’re feeling a little tense. Not only can a mantra put your mind at ease, but it can also let you hit the fresh button on any anxious thoughts.

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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.

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Changing Your Thought Patterns Helps Put Your Fears In Perspective

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Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective type of psychotherapy. It helps you understand how your thoughts influence your feelings and behaviors.

Since social anxiety is often fueled by irrational fears, one goal of therapy could be helping you develop more realistic thought patterns. So, instead of always imagining worst-case scenarios in social settings, youll learn how to focus on more realistic scenarios.

An irrational fear would be thinking, Everyones judging me, or I look stupid.

A more realistic thought pattern would be: Everyones nervous, and most people are too focused on how they look and sound to be overly concerned about me.

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Anxiety Confused With Adhd

Anxiety also drives a lot of symptoms in a school setting that are easily misconstrued as ADHD or defiant behavior.

Ill see a child whos having difficulty in school: not paying attention, getting up out of their seat all the time, asking a lot of questions, going to the bathroom a lot, getting in other kids spaces, explains Dr. Busman. The behavior is disrupting other kids, and is frustrating to the teacher, whos wondering why they ask so many questions, and why theyre so wrapped up in what other kids are doing, whether theyre following the rules.

People tend to assume whats happening with this child is ADHD inattentive type, but its commonly anxiety. Kids with OCD, mislabeled as inattentive, are actually not asking all those questions because theyre not listening, but rather because they need a lot of reassurance.

Write Down A Script Before Phone Calls

Cant hear yourself think over the sound of your heart pounding? If making a phone call triggers your anxiety, it might be worth writing a script to get you through it.

Whether you make a general list of the topics you need to cover or write a word-for-word script, this is an easy way to avoid awkward pauses and/or mind blanks during those personal and professional calls.

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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.

What Is Crippling Anxiety

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Rather than being a clinical term, crippling anxiety is a common expression used to describe severe anxiety or an anxiety disorder.

And in order to understand anxiety disorders, it’s essential to differentiate them from the everyday pressures and stressors people experience in their daily lives. For example, feeling nervous or having butterflies in your stomach before giving a presentation is typical and expected.

However, when you experience anxiety more often than not, and it becomes challenging to complete daily tasks or participate fully in your life it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

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How Does Anxiety Affect The Body

From head to toe, almost every system can be impacted just by nature of your body releasing a lot of stress hormones, Mona Potter, MD, medical director at McLean Anxiety Mastery Program in Boston, tells SELF. But why does it happen?

The physical effects of anxiety all have to do with your bodys fight-or-flight response. When a person experiences anxiety, its essentially the fight-or-flight system kicking in and saying, Danger! Neda Gould, PhD, clinical psychologist and associate director of the Johns Hopkins Bayview Anxiety Disorders Clinic, tells SELF.

Under typical circumstances, its meant to help you survive a dangerous situation by escaping a threat or fending it off. This made sense from an evolutionary perspective: Way back in in the days of cave people, that threat might have been something along the lines of a lion wanting to eat you.

If you have anxiety, though, your fear and worry are that threat, prompting your sympathetic nervous system, which controls involuntary processes like your breathing and heart rate, to kick into high gear. Once that happens, your adrenal glands start pumping out stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, according to the Mayo Clinic. And its those hormones that trigger a domino effect of physical symptoms of anxiety.

Signs Youre Reaching The Point Of Social Exhaustion

Getting to the end of social exhaustion can feel like youre on the brink of a breakdown. Social fatigue can happen to anyone, extroverts and introverts alike. But since our society emphasizes social interaction and stimulation, you may not recognize the signs until youre in the middle of burnout.

Here are some common signs of social exhaustion:

  • detachment from other people

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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 Does Anxiety Feel Like

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Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a wide variety of things. Thats a fancy way of saying you may feel emotional symptoms like restlessness, fear, and racing thoughts. And, you may also have a rapid heartbeat, headaches, neck or back pain, and upset stomach.

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How To Deal With Social Anxiety: 8 Coaches And Therapists Sound Off

You want to meet new people, but you dread walking into a room full of strangers. You want to connect with your friends, but your hands get clammy when you think of picking up the phone to call them. You want people to get to know you, but your heart pounds as you think of all the ways they may be silently judging you.

Social anxiety can wreak havoc on a persons life. The good news, though, is it doesnt have to.

And youre definitely not alone. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, 15 million American adults suffer from social anxiety disorder . And many in the mental health community believe that because of the pandemic and the necessity of social distancing and quarantining for so long, many more people will experience social anxiety.

So what can you do to overcome this? First, lets understand just what social anxiety is. Then, well go over some exercises you can do to cope.

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