Understanding Social Anxiety
People who experience social anxiety cannot control their fears. They second guess their actions and feel apprehensive about interaction with others. Although they know that their fears are irrational, they often get overcome by them.
Social Anxiety Definition
Social anxiety is an incapacitating condition that causes discomfort for those who suffer from it. People with social anxiety cannot bear to be around others, whether in large gatherings or intimate social events. Provided that they are in an environment with unfamiliar faces, people with this phobia are anxious.
Because they fear being embarrassed, they are averse to social settings. Their anxiety might be irrational to others, but to sufferers, it feels so intense that they avoid social interaction. It forces them to spend time by themselves and feel lonely. Because they are not confident in their ability to navigate uncomfortable social situations, they isolate themselves in their comfort zone.
What Causes Social Anxiety?
Most people feel slightly anxious about social interaction. For people with the disorder, anxiety has a debilitating effect and makes them unable to interact normally. The extremity of symptoms differentiates social anxiety from what most people are feeling.
People with severe social anxiety often worry that they are under scrutiny. For example, a visit to the mall becomes unbearable because of the perceived judgment of people around them. Although those people are usually oblivious to the sufferer’s presence, he or she feels that everyone is watching and talking about him.
The irony of social anxiety is that the sufferers often realize that their fears are ridiculous. However, they get overwhelmed by anxiety and cannot control how they feel in uncomfortable situations. They give in to the phobia and avoid situations they think will make them uncomfortable. Rather than ease their anxiety, isolation worsens it and takes over their lives.
Social anxiety can be triggered by everyday stimuli. Simple tasks like conversing with strangers, having a meal at a restaurant, and shopping become agonizing for a person with this phobia. It results in them having a limited environment where they are feeling comfortable. In the worst case, they stay away from public places completely.
Another trigger of social anxiety is public performances. Public speakers, musicians, and actors who need to stand before a crowd often feel anxious about it. This condition is referred to as generalized social anxiety disorder.
How to Tell if Someone Has Social Anxiety
How can you differentiate ordinary anxiety about social anxiety from the crippling condition that qualifies as a mental health disorder? Below are some signs you should look out for:
- Apprehension about going to social events where you think you will be judged;
- Obsession with embarrassment and how to avoid it;
- Inability to converse with strangers;
- Worrying about people noticing your anxiety in social situations;
- Worrying that you will stammer, sweat, or blush while talking in public;
- Avoiding social situations;
- Strong dislike for being the center of attention;
- Thinking too much about every activity to the point of getting anxious;
- Thinking negatively about how you behaved in specific social situations;
- Having self-deprecating thoughts after a social interaction.
While in a social situation, it is possible to show some physical symptoms. These are visible signs that you are uncomfortable while interacting with others:
- Shortness of breath;
- Rapid heartbeat;
- Stomach pains;
- Muscle tension;
How to Treat Social Anxiety
There is no definitive cure for this disorder. Overcoming social anxiety requires some form of therapy from a trained counselor. Below are some treatment methods that are commonly used.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Although there is no cure for social anxiety, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy offers several treatment plans that have proven effective:
- Exposure therapy;
- Cognitive restructuring;
- Social skills training.
Therapy isolates and addresses the triggers of social anxiety. It helps sufferers lead normal lives by equipping them with coping mechanisms. The therapy methods highlighted above are essential in limiting the severity of the condition and dealing with most symptoms.
When a person’s adrenaline is triggered by a social event, anxiety kicks in. To prevent this, certain prescription drugs are used. They work by blocking the signal that would bring out a fearful response to social situations. Xanax is one of the commonly used prescription drugs that serve this purpose. Together with therapy, drugs effectively reduce social phobias.
Getting Help from a Therapist
It is only a skilled counselor who can help you cope with social anxiety. Because the triggers for this disorder vary from one person to another, identifying them can be difficult. Working with a therapist help identify and desensitize yourself to triggers. You will also come up with coping mechanisms that improve your daily life.
To decrease the mental strain brought on by the disorder, your therapist will use a combination of therapy strategies. Medication to combat the physical effects of stress might also be necessary.
How to Identify the Best Therapist
Most licensed therapists are capable of treating social anxiety disorder. However, if your case is severe, it is best to consult a professional who has dealt with similar patients. Because this disorder can be a precursor for more serious health conditions, finding an experienced therapist is ideal.
Keep in mind that you are not alone. It is normal to feel anxious about social interaction, especially with strangers. However, if you are so anxious that your health is affected, and you cannot go to some places, it is time to seek help. Browse the directory to find a suitable therapist and get started.