It is not uncommon to feel slightly uncomfortable or anxious when meeting new people or performing in front of others. In some cases, however, these feelings of anxiety can be so overpowering that you to give up doing things you’d want to do like going out, exploring new job opportunities, or dating. Or if you muster up the courage to do them, you endure these social situations with a great deal of distress.
Social Anxiety Disorder (aka Social Phobia) is intense and persistent anxiety or fear in one or more social situations.
Your anxiety can be triggered by social interactions, social settings, or even thinking of past or upcoming social events. Typically, the underlying fear relates to the possibility of being judged, embarrassed, humiliated, and/or rejected. The anxiety experienced in these circumstances tends to be out of proportion, and not the result of substances or other mental or medical conditions.
The constant fear of being scrutinized laughed at, or judged by others can take a toll on your health and relationships.
You may rely on drinking, limit yourself from seeking or taking new employment opportunities, and miss out on sharing your ideas, thoughts or opinions with others. When feeling overwhelmingly anxious, escaping from social situations may seem the best alternative that gives you short-term relief. But it’s not.
Repeatedly withdrawing only makes your social anxiety worse.
It keeps you in a negative vicious cycle that reinforces your feelings of helplessness and being “trapped.” That’s how social anxiety can lead to social isolation, loneliness, low self-esteem, as well as feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, hopelessness, and depression.
Does any of this resonate with you?
If it does, then social anxiety may be a real issue in your life. And you’re not alone. According to the DSM-5, 7% of the US population has Social Anxiety Disorder. It tends to start before adulthood and affects men and women, as well as different racial and ethnic groups.
Here are some common signs of Social Anxiety to look for:
Do you frequently feel anxious when:
- Talking to unfamiliar people?
- When beingthe center of the attention?
- When eating, drinking, or doing other activities (like exercising) in front of others?
- When raising your hand to ask a question?
- Meeting new people?
- Giving a presentation?
Do you frequently worry about:
- Saying something “dumb” or “stupid”
- Being perceived as boring
- Blushing, trembling, shaking
- Making mistakes or forgetting what to say
- Others noticing that you are feeling anxious
- Feeling anxious or having a panic attack in social situations
Do you frequently experience (in social situations or when thinking of them):
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Dry mouth
- Panic attacks
Do you frequently avoid:
Going to parties or social gatherings
- Eating or drinking in public
- Answering phone calls, texts or emails
- Posting or writing in social media
- Talking to strangers
- Meeting new people
- Going on dates
- Making eye contact
- Going to interviews
- Taking new job opportunities
- Speaking in class, at weddings, job meetings
- Saying what you think or feel out of fear of offending others
Seeking help from a therapist can make a huge difference in your quality of life.
Once correctly diagnosed, there are effective treatments available to you. One option is medication. Typically prescribed by a psychiatrist, these medications help relieve symptoms of social anxiety. But they aren’t meant to be taken long-term.
Another treatment option is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
CBT is a type of therapy that’s particularly effective for treating social anxiety disorder. A licensed therapist who is trained in CBT can help you better understand your symptoms and diagnosis. They can also teach you strategies to learn different ways of thinking, reacting and behaving in anxiety-provoking situations. You’ll learn healthy coping skills to successfully manage your symptoms and overcome your fears.
Support groups or group therapy can be very helpful.
Yes, seriously. There’s a lot to be said for sharing your struggles with others who understand what you’re feeling because they’ve been there, too. It’s also helpful to hear what’s worked for others with social anxiety. Many support groups are free of charge and group therapy can be a cheaper alternative to individual counseling. There’s also ample self-help books and workbooks on social anxiety.
Hopefully, this article gave you a better understanding of social anxiety and the options available. Don’t let social anxiety limit you. If you’re ready to feel relief, you can call us at (305) 501-0133 or click here to schedule a free 20-minute Clarity Consult We will gladly address your concerns and provide you with guidance based on your needs.