Fear is a universal human characteristic. It’s only natural for the body to protect itself from the unknown, right? Sometimes, this fear can manifest in different ways in situations that our mind may view as threatening.
This often happens when you feel anxious about something: that initial panic you feel when you are moving away from home, meeting new people, doing a recital, or making a speech in front of a bunch of people can be crippling. Still, somehow, some people manage to pull through and even make the most of the situation.
However, while feeling anxious is something everyone experiences every now and then, those with a social anxiety disorder have a special kind of fear.
For people with social anxiety disorder (also called social phobia or SAD), interacting with others in social situations does not come easily and, in some cases, is downright scary. This discomfort experienced from being in social situations can be a source of distress and fear.
In this article, we will be looking at social anxiety disorders as a concept and giving useful tips to kick it to the curb for good. Stay tuned.
Understanding Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder isn’t just shyness. It is an intense fear of embarrassing oneself during social occasions. If you have this fear you may be left wondering “why am I the only one going through this?”
The fact is, you aren’t. In the United States alone, 15 million people are known to be affected by this condition, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 12.1% of the population will experience the disorder at some point in their lives. That is a lot of people who have to live with a social anxiety disorder. Imagine how sad it is that people just think they are shy and not socialize because they are ‘snobs.’
The American Psychiatric Association defines social anxiety disorder as a mental disorder in which one has a persistent fear of one or more social situations where embarrassment may occur, and the fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual threat posed by the social status as determined by the person’s cultural norms. It is a chronic mental illness that not just prevents people from making friends, contrary to what people perceive or portray it has.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder
So how does social anxiety disorder present itself?
Here are some social anxiety symptoms according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual on Mental DIsorders (DSM-5):
- Physical symptoms: Sweating, blushing, nausea, tremors, palpitations, chest pain, dry mouth, dizziness, and shaky voice.
- Behavioral symptoms: Having a rigid body posture, fear of being judged, finding it difficult to make eye contact, being self-conscious, fear that people would notice you being anxious, and over-analyzing your performance after social interactions.
- Social Symptoms: Avoiding social gatherings, avoiding situations that lead to confrontation, avoiding situations where you are the center of attraction, avoiding having to eat in front of others, having a difficult time starting conversations, and talking to those they wished they could.
Although some symptoms may vary, the center of the disorder is still the persistent fear of social interactions. In order to overcome social anxiety you first have to acknowledge it – beat yourself up about it. Above all, be patient with youself in your journey.
Tips For Getting Rid Of Social Anxiety Disorder
Ask For Help
Sometimes, social anxiety may be overwhelming, and often, people with social anxiety are left feeling down in the dumps because of it. We understand that during the battle for control over your life, it could get like that full of angry questions and unhappiness.
However, do not despair or shut yourself in. There are a lot of avenues for you to vent your frustrations and strive for better.
- You can always meet up with a mental health professional about your fears and your condition.
- If you are too ashamed to seek professional help from a doctor, you can start small by contacting mental health helplines to address the issue.
- You can supplement with asking mental health groups that cater for people with social anxiety.
Have A Sound Support System
Having friends or family members who love and care about you is a great way to get support during your quest to get better.
- They could accompany you to seek professional help.
- Go with you for a support group meeting,
- Be there when you are frustrated and do not know what to do.
- It could be a family member or friend. Either way, you need a support system, as you cannot rely on yourself all through the road to recovery.
Join A Support Group
There is something about seeing a lot of people on the same journey as you. Somehow, you do not feel so alone anymore. You get to see them push against the tide towards wellness, motivating you to do the same.
So, does joining a social anxiety support group make your recovery a lot smoother and more fun? Yes!
Initially, being in a room full of strangers could make you want to be sick and bolt for the door. But these are people having the same struggles as you, the thought of you coming also makes them feel like making a run for it. They are a constant reminder that you are not alone.
You can even use the group to practice social skills by making small talk with other members.
Having the courage to go to a meeting or more is a massive step in the right direction.
Stop Being Hard On Yourself
Everyone is going through one thing or the other. In your case, it is a social anxiety disorder. If you keep putting yourself under undue pressure to get better by setting unrealistic expectations and beating yourself up if any slip-up happens during a social situation, you could hinder your growth process and even worsen the situation.
No one said it is going to be easy, and things like this do not leave with a snap of the finger or with one self-affirmation. Be patient with yourself. Some days may be carefree, some hard, but don’t give up. You can pull through.
Eat Well And Exercise
Taking care of your mind also involves the body. There is just something about eating a balanced meal, drinking water adequately, and regular exercise that makes you feel on top of the world. Like you have everything under control.
Healthy living nourishes not only your body but also your mind. So, when next you are looking to skip breakfast, think again. Eating healthy puts a stop to stress eating, which may predispose you to obesity and eating disorders.
Exercise also helps you keep fit and even gain more confidence in yourself and your body. If you sign up for a gym, you are also taking a massive step out of your comfort zone as you would be exposed to people. Who knows, you may make a friend or two while you are at it.
Finally, doing physical exercise helps you get to sleep at a decent hour at night. Getting enough sleep on a regular basis is one way to help lower your social anxiety.
Keep A Journal
You could detail your struggles, interesting stories, things that made you laugh or cry, and even how best to improve your habits, which would be tailored towards coping with social situations.
Celebrate Your Wins
When you do something like go out, face social situations, celebrate it, be your own hype man. However small or little you think the effort you made was, give yourself some accolades. Buy that shirt for you, those lovely pairs of earrings, buy ice-cream for yourself, eat a slice of cake, and deserve all the good things that life has to offer, especially now that you are doing a lot of work.
Treating social anxiety disorder (social phobia) is usually done through a mix of cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication. Cognitive-beavioral therapy is a kind of talk therapy in which a mental health specialist helps the patient examine and un-do the patterns of negative thoughts in their head that may be underlying their condition.
Sessions also involve learning coping skills, such as relaxation exercises, so that when the person starts feeling their anxiety again, they can deal with it better without becoming overwhelmed.
As mentioned, the therapist may also prescribe medications to help with the disorder. Patients with social anxiety disorder are typically prescribed SSRI’s, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – a class of antidepressants that includes medications such as:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
These medications prevent the brain from withdrawing serotonin – a brain chemical that produces feelings of well-being – as quickly as it otherwise would. The idea is this helps patients with severe anxiety feel more at ease, helping them to not feel overwhelmed by their condition.
Above All, Do It For You
For any changes you want to make, do not imitate anyone or do it for anyone to like you. You are just as important, and you deserve to do things just because you want to or you like it.
If you want to change your look, do it because you want to not because someone said you should.
Although it may be hard sometimes trying not to get swept up by the tide of seeking approval from people, with small instances and occasions when you did things for you, you would get used to doing your own thing and being your person.
In conclusion, you are doing well, dear, and just know that you are not alone in this fight. If you need expert help, Helpingtalks can do more than cater to that. Be patient, and do not stress yourself any further; you are already on your way to recovery.
Below are some commonly asked questions on this topic:
How do you stop social anxiety?
Can I get rid of social anxiety by myself?
What causes social anxiety?
Social anxiety can be caused by a variety of factors, including family history, new work or social situations, negative situations growing up (bullying, etc), or having a physical disability that draws attention (ex: cleft palette).
Some authorities say current events, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic, can help trigger social anxiety. One of the negative consequences of the need to self-isolate, especially for people who self-isolated for a long period of time or who are already prone to anxiety, is that they were unable to keep their social skills “up to date,” resulting in them feeling anxiety.
What social anxiety feels like?
Am I just shy or do I have social anxiety?
How do I stop being shy?
How can I be more socially confident?
Is social anxiety serious?
Are there pills for social anxiety?
Are you born with social anxiety?
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