Social Anxiety Explained
Imagine an individual your age, who has goals and aspirations in life to accomplish but is unable to due to fear of humiliation and judgment by others. One may say this is not a proper way to live life, however, this individual has no choice. They physically cannot bring themselves to get involved without feeling like their anxiety will start to take over or they will be viewed negatively.
The thought of someone having trouble making or maintaining friends, getting in relationships, or even finding a job to sustain a way of life may be baffling to the average American, however, it is the reality for about 12% of the U.S. adult population. Social Anxiety does not only affect a person’s mental ability, but it also affects their daily functioning.
Signs of Someone Experiencing Social Anxiety
Individuals experiencing social anxiety typically have a fear of judgment, embarrassment, and scrutiny from others lingering in their mind when it comes to attending events, being in small groups, being in public areas and being around unfamiliar people. Exposure to these situations can lead to the individual experiencing physical symptoms such as sweating, muscle tension, shaky voice, and nausea.
Naturally, not everyone is comfortable with others being in their personal bubble or space, speaking in public, or even making new friends as an introvert. However, when it gets to the point that the individual starts to avoid these situations and it starts to affect their day-to-day life, then it becomes a problem.
Ways to Challenge Social Anxiety At Home
There are several treatment approaches to overcome social anxiety. Psychotherapy and medication use has been proven effective for the treatment of social anxiety.
Nevertheless, if you are the kind of person who likes to try solutions on your own first, before branching out to
seek help from a third party, these self-help skills can be utilized.
1. Get out of the house*
For someone experiencing social anxiety, leaving their comfort zone which most often is their home, is important to overcoming their fear of being in a social environment. Ways to do that is to,
go for a run
go out to eat with people you are comfortable with at first, and then
start to expand by inviting others who are not typically part of your bubble
start to say yes to invitations and only stay for a short timeframe
*It is crazy to say "get out the house" to someone who is experiencing social anxiety disorder (SAD) when you know that is their biggest fear, however the only way to overcome is to put yourself in uncomfortable situations by challenging your fear. It is key to remember to pace yourself when trying these strategies to avoid being overwhelmed or rebelling.
2. Keep a journal
By keeping a journal you can write down or track some of the skills and activities you have challenged yourself with to be able to look back at how far you have come or even acknowledge yourself on mini accomplishments for breaking the barriers. Also seeing your thoughts and behaviors on paper allows you to know if you are improving or falling short with the goals you have set for yourself.
3. Educate for yourself on SAD
By gathering knowledge about social anxiety disorder, one can advocate for themselves, make informed decisions, educate others about their symptoms, and feel good about knowing what is happening to them. With this education, in social situations, they know when to walk away to take a break during overwhelming conversations. At work they know to ask for accommodations to be able to complete their job duties to the best of their ability, and in relationships they can educate their partners.
Contact a licensed therapist for a psychotherapy/psycho-educational consultation. The use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based approach that has been effective in treating SAD. It is used to change the client’s flawed assumptions and irrational thinking about social situations into more positive thoughts and beliefs. Combining this approach with the use of medication simultaneously is the best treatment approach.
Contact your doctor or healthcare professional. Your doctor will be able to educate you on your symptoms, rule out any other health-related diagnosis that could be related to your symptoms, and prescribe the appropriate medication.
Overcoming social anxiety is not something that can be done quickly. It is a working progress for the individual to get to a place where they are comfortable with the new changes.
It is no secret that a change in anyone’s life can be difficult, however, oftentimes the results of this transition lead to improving or overcoming most of the anxiety that comes with being in social environments or meeting new people.
Need someone to talk to about your social anxiety? Contact Mindsight for an appointment today!
Oretha Akeyo, CSW
Oretha is a behavioral health clinician at Mindsight. She is originally from Liberia, West Africa. She enjoys cooking for people, so if you smell an enticing aroma, she is probably cooking some delicious Liberian delicacies. In her free time, she enjoys playing games with friends and family. If you are up for it, find her on Words With Friends for a challenging game.
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