Do You Need Assistance Overcoming Social Anxiety? 6 Expert Suggestions
Here’s how to deal with feelings of overload or discomfort in social situations.
You are not alone if you feel out of practice socializing after a period of social isolation. It’s very acceptable to feel more apprehensive than usual while leaving the house to mingle, just as it’s normal to feel overwhelmed or out of your element in huge groups.
However, if these worried sensations persist and give you significant distress, you may have a social anxiety disorder.
“Social anxiety is one of those diseases where the term very really describes what it is,” explains Dawn Potter, PsyD, a psychologist. “In a social environment, anxiousness occurs. If you experience anxiety that causes suffering or prevents you from doing things you wish to do in social circumstances, we may start to consider this a disease. In a social scenario, a person suffering from social anxiety disorder might experience frequent worry, panic, or substantial discomfort. Then they would desire to escape that circumstance or would engage it with great trepidation.”
Dr. Potter notes that there are numerous sorts of social anxiety. While one form of social anxiety involves being uncomfortable with or avoiding social settings involving large or small groups of people you may not know well, whether in public or private, there is also a sort of social anxiety that revolves around public speaking.
“It’s strictly performance-based,” Dr. Potter explains. “You would be nervous about public speaking, but not about going to a party, eating at a restaurant, or chatting on the phone to an unknown person.”
Contrary to common assumption, being quiet in social situations or preferring to mingle in small groups does not indicate that you have social anxiety — and having this disease does not imply that you are an introvert. “While extroverts are often open and conversational and like meeting new people, they might sometimes feel apprehensive, anxious, or on edge when meeting new people and performing in front of crowds,” Dr. Potter explains.
How to Deal with Social Anxiety
Dr. Potter emphasizes the need of addressing social anxiety, even if it is challenging, because it may have a significant influence on your life. “It can have subtly bad consequences for your profession, friendships, dating life, or even family ties,” she explains. “Missed chances can have far-reaching consequences.” When a person feels alone, it can lead to sadness because you miss out on opportunities to have fun and feel connected to other people.”
Dr. Potter, fortunately, observes that social anxiety is exceptionally durable, while solutions for conquering social anxiety rely on both your specific personality and the extent to which the disease affects your life. For example, if you get panic attacks in public because you feel overwhelmed, you may choose medicine, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. A different therapy strategy may be more appropriate for less severe anxiety.
Here are a few alternative approaches to overcoming social anxiety.
Practice your public speaking skills.
Finding opportunities to practice public speaking is a useful technique for folks who have a mild-to-moderate social anxiety disorder — for example, if it isn’t giving you panic episodes. Dr. Potter recommends joining an organization like Toastmasters to particularly practice and rehearse public speaking.
Consider cognitive-behavioral treatment.
Among the several types of psychotherapy available, cognitive behavioral therapy — which includes changing the way you think and feel about a situation, which may then help you improve your behavior — is an effective approach to social anxiety. “With social anxiety, you want to discover patterns of thought that drive you to avoid social settings,” explains Dr. Potter. “For example, if a person is constantly expecting the worst outcome, or if a person is preoccupied on the notion that someone could see them flushing, sweating, or stammering.” “You want to teach them to question those expectations and to use positive self-talk rather than negative self-talk.”
Introduce yourself to anxiety-inducing circumstances gradually.
Dr. Potter suggests what she refers to as “situational exposure.” Identify specific social settings that frighten you and work your way up from easy to more difficult ones while practicing relaxation techniques to increase your tolerance for anxiety. “For example, if you’re afraid of huge groups and have been avoiding group activities,” she says, “start by going out with a buddy one on one.” “Then gradually progress to going out with a small group of pals.” Repeat as required until you feel more at ease before going to a restaurant, bar, or party where there will be more people. You may also focus on situational exposure with the help of a therapist, according to Dr. Potter. “Exposure therapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy, is a sort of treatment that a qualified psychologist may administer.”
Request assistance from your support system.
Admitting to individuals in your life that you are apprehensive in social situations and may want assistance can be awkward or degrading. However, informing a friend or loved one that you may want more assistance may be quite beneficial. “Many times, people will feel more comfortable if they’re in a social scenario with someone they know,” Dr. Potter explains. “Especially if someone has been quite secluded recently, having a friend when you go back into a social environment might be useful at first.”
The key to this support is assisting an anxious person is gradually becoming more self-sufficient. “People with more broad social anxiety will eventually find it hard to go shopping or order dinner on their own,” Dr. Potter adds. “You want to strike a balance between assisting someone and encouraging them to do it themselves.”
Bring them into the conversation if you’re a friend or family member of someone who is apprehensive in social circumstances. “You could think, ‘Oh, I suppose Sara has something she’d want to say about that issue.'” ‘She’s quite interested in that,’ adds Dr. Potter. “You may help them by encouraging them to come out of their shells.” However, before you do so, make sure to ask the person whether it is OK. “If you have social anxiety, you might not appreciate being put in the position to say something.” Talk to that person ahead of time about how they wish to handle various situations.”
Examine your own situation.
When you’re out in public and you start feeling worried, it’s easy to spiral and become obsessed with everything that appears to be going wrong, even though you’re not the only one. “At the moment, you must focus on anything other than yourself and tell yourself, ‘This is definitely anxiety.'” I can’t read their thoughts. “I have no idea what they’re thinking about me,” Dr. Potter admits.
Of course, this is easier said than done, so she recommends employing a method called “five senses” to help you recover perspective and stay in the moment. “Check in with yourself using all five of your senses to become more outwardly oriented.” “Avoid unpleasant interior feelings and bad ideas,” advises Dr. Potter. “You can then try to focus on: ‘What are they genuinely saying to me?'” What else is going on at the moment? What do I notice? What am I hearing? “How can I feel?”
Look for the bright side – and be gentle to yourself.
It’s entirely natural if your social anxiety isn’t subsiding as quickly as you’d want. “It could be that you moved too quickly and need to spend more time practicing other social encounters before you’re ready for the one you’re stuck on,” Dr. Potter says. “It could also be that you need to work more on relaxation and distraction techniques so you can tolerate that situation next time.”
Analyzing what sparked a reaction, whether a panic attack or anything else, can also be beneficial. “Try to break it down by asking yourself, ‘How can I think about it differently?’ or ‘How can I improve the scenario next time?'” Dr. Potter recommends. “Suppose you go to a concert and start having panic attacks because you’re surrounded by a lot of people. Maybe next time you’ll sit at the back or on an aisle, or stay somewhere with an exit route if you’re feeling worried or closed-in.”
Dr. Potter says that most individuals are far more concerned with themselves than with others. “They’re probably not examining your conduct in social circumstances because they’re too preoccupied with what they’re going to say or do next,” she adds. “Because your anxiety generally emphasizes the bad and lessens the positive, the things you’re highly aware of about yourself may be overlooked by others.”
When should you be concerned about the physical symptoms of anxiety?
Physical symptoms might accompany social anxiety disorders. “You may experience flushing, sweating, or a subjective impression of being abruptly chilly or warm,” Dr. Potter explains. “You might also be experiencing physical strain, which could result in aches and pains, such as a stomachache.”
Even if you do not have a full-blown panic attack, you may feel panic-like symptoms. Dr. Potter defines panic symptoms as “your heart racing, shortness of breath, a subjective sensation of losing control, or a fear of immediate, imminent disaster.” “People who suffer from social anxiety will often exhibit some of these symptoms, including at a lower threshold.”
It might be difficult to tell if these symptoms are caused by worry or by a more serious medical problem. “If the discomfort goes away immediately after the anxiety-provoking circumstance has ended, and if you have a subjective sense of knowing that you are now terrified of something,” adds Dr. Potter, “then what you are feeling is undoubtedly anxiety.” “However, if you’re in question, you should absolutely go to a doctor about it and seek to advise on particular symptoms to look out for as well as your risk factors.”
This advice is especially critical if you have a known cardiac issue. “You should be far more cautious about getting medical attention for any of these sorts of symptoms,” she advises. “And if you have heart issues and anxiety, talk to your doctor about how to distinguish the two.”