Most people experience a sense of social anxiety at one point or another. Maybe they are interviewing for an important job or have to give a speech in front of their class. Do social situations constantly leave you feeling an extreme sense of fear or discomfort, though? If so, you may be suffering from a social anxiety disorder.
Those who suffer from a social anxiety disorder tend to experience extreme feelings of anxiety and fear when faced with most social situations. These feelings may occur most frequently and intense in situations one is not comfortable or familiar with or feels as though they are being judged. Those suffering from an anxiety disorder may feel anxious at even just the thought of having to ensure situations like these and may go to great lengths just to avoid them. Social anxiety disorder will have one feeling such intense feelings of anxiety that it begins to negatively impact their relationships, job, reputation, and overall quality of life.
Many people have experienced feelings of anxiety and nervousness when in a social situation. Occasional feelings of shyness or self-consciousness do not necessarily mean that one is suffering from a social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorder is characterized by feelings of social anxiety that begin to negatively impact the overall quality of one's life. Those with a social anxiety disorder may be so affected by their feelings of shyness and self-consciousness that they begin to live in constant fear and begin to avoid triggering situations. While social anxiety disorder may look different for everyone, there are a few common signs and symptoms one can watch out for. They include extreme feelings of:
shyness and self-consciousness in social situations
worry before social events
fear of being judged by other people
fear of doing something embarrassing.
There may also be physical symptoms and behavioral changes, like:
Short, rapid breathing
"Butterflies" in the stomach
Feelings of dizziness
Avoiding social situations to the point of negatively impacting one's quality of life
Dependency on close friends and family to accompany you in social situations
Social anxiety can begin to take a toll on one's friendships, romantic life, career, and overall quality of life. The good news is, there are tons of methods out there to help you cope with feelings of social anxiety.
Social anxiety is characterized by feelings of anxiety one experiences in social situations. Taking steps to manage the feelings of anxiety you experience while in social situations will be extremely beneficial in helping you cope with your social anxiety. You can manage your feelings of anxiety by:
Taking care of your physical health: Your mental health and physical health are dependent on each other for proper functioning. When your mental health is suffering, your physical health will begin to suffer, and vice versa. You can take care of your physical health through methods like eating a nutritious diet, exercising daily, getting enough sleep, and limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption.
Understanding and working to change your negative thought patterns. Negative thoughts have a way have making situations seem larger than they are. When you learn to catch your negative thoughts as they are happening, you will be able to gain control over them. As you are experiencing your feelings of anxiety, question the thoughts running through your mind as they are happening. Are they logical? Can you find a positive thought to counteract the negative thoughts?
Breathwork. Focusing on slowing down and deepening your breathing can help counteract the physical symptoms that accompany anxiety like a racing heart or shortened breath. This will help you relax.
Journal. Writing down your thoughts, feelings, and emotions can help you develop a better self-awareness that will likely help you work through your feelings of anxiety. You will be able to better understand your triggers and negative thought patterns when you write down what is going through your head.
Meditation. Mindful meditation has been proven to be effective in helping with symptoms of anxiety. There are many resources on the internet for those who are new to meditation, including mindfulness apps, blog posts, and YouTube videos.
When you are experiencing feelings of social anxiety, it can become easy to become caught up in focusing only on yourself. This can increase your fears of other people watching you and judging you. You will find that you become even more self-conscious, focusing on moving in the perfect way and saying the perfect thing for fear that you will do something embarrassing. Shifting your focus from yourself to what is going on around you can be very helpful in reducing your feelings of social anxiety. You can do this by:
Focusing on the people around you. By this, I do not mean to focus on what the people around you think of you. Rather, focus on truly building a connection with them. How are they feeling? What do the two of you have in common? What are they passionate about? This can help relieve some pressure you are placing on yourself.
Focus on being present. Try to focus on the moment. Observe your surroundings, focus on the sensations you are experiencing, and work on remaining mindful. Stepping out of your head and into your present situation can help you move past situations that may be making you cringe or future situation possibilities that may be causing worry.
Understand that nobody will ever be perfect, including you. Release yourself from the pressures of perfection and work to be mindful and genuine in your interactions, instead.
Exposing yourself to social situations more and more often can help you begin to become more desensitized to your fears and anxieties. While avoiding uncomfortable social situations may feel like your safest bet, doing so will only strengthen your feelings of social anxiety.
Taking one small step out of your comfort zone at a time will likely help you slowly but surely overcome your social anxiety. If you fear meeting new people, for instance, you can begin by smiling at a stranger you pass on the street. After you feel more comfortable doing that, you can begin to wave hello, and so on.
When working on this step begins to make you feel anxious, practice taking deep, controlled breaths to help you calm down. Be kind and patient with yourself as you work on these skills. This will take some time and will not always be a linear process. That is okay. It doesn't mean that you won't get over this.
Social anxiety disorder can be tough to go through. Know that you are not alone. If your social anxiety disorder is taking a toll on your quality of life and nothing seems to help, it may be time to seek the help of a mental health professional. A therapist can help you understand why you are feeling this way, diagnose any mental health issues you may be experiencing, and help you find the right treatment to get you on the path to healing.