Learn About Social Phobia
Social Phobia is more than just serious shyness. Nowadays, its the most common anxiety disorder psychologists see. Because this fear can impact work, school and other day-to-day activities. Learning as much as you can about the symptoms of the disorder and what treatments are effective will help you know what to expect from this illness and from the recovery.
Educate Yourself About Social Anxiety Disorder Understand Their Symptoms Triggers Possible Reaction And Coping Methods Therapist And Counsellor Sarla Totla Recommended
A mental health condition, social anxiety disorder can cause anxiety during social interactions. People with this condition may feel uncomfortable talking to strangers, speaking in public, making eye contact, starting conversations, going to parties and so on.
According to WebMD, such people may be overwhelmed by a fear of being judged by others, being embarrassed or humiliated, accidentally offending someone or being the centre of attention.
If you come across any person with social anxiety disorder, how do you support them? Therapist and counsellor Sarla Totla recommended the following tips:
Explore Specific Situations That Trigger Anxiety
Social anxiety doesnt show up in the same way for everyone.
You might feel anxious about any situation where you worry about others judging you, from ordering food at a restaurant to leaving for the restroom during a class lecture. On the other hand, you could feel mostly fine simply being around others as long as they dont expect you to share your thoughts or speak up.
Pinpointing why and when you feel most anxious can help you take the first steps toward finding solutions to power through those feelings.
Tip: Start by listing situations that cause the most discomfort, the ones you feel utterly unable to face. These might include:
- interviewing for a new job
- meeting with a professor to ask for help
- introducing yourself to someone youre attracted to
Chances are, you spend a lot of time thinking about the potential negative outcomes of those social situations you just listed.
You might worry about:
- accidentally saying something rude or offensive
- tripping or spilling something on yourself
- laughing, sneezing, or coughing at the wrong time
- getting sick in front of other people
These things do happen on occasion, and they certainly can cause some short-term discomfort. It can feel frightening to imagine yourself in a similarly awkward situation, but try to keep things in perspective.
Understanding the spotlight effect the tendency to think others notice your mistakes more than they actually do can also go a long way toward easing feelings of social anxiety.
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Join A Support Group For Social Anxiety
Oftentimes, people who suffer from mental disorders feel isolated, misunderstood, and abandoned. However, social groups catered to people with similar issues or backgrounds can make sufferers feel like they belong somewhere, and that people do understand what theyre going through. Research local or maybe even your areas Chamber of Commerce website for more information.
They Respond Differently To Stimuli That You Consider Normal And Even Pleasant
Remember, research shows that people with social anxiety are on high alert all of the time. This means that noise, lots of conversation, and large groups of people can overload their sensory intake. They will retreat, shut down, or flee. A study conducted by Gottschalk, M.D. and Haer, Ph.D., published in General Psychiatry, demonstrates that sensory overload and social impairment are directly related, particularly in individuals who have generalized social anxiety issues. Thus, if you are forcing a socially anxious person to participate in such activities, you are presenting him/her with an almost impossible situation. Tone down the activities in which you are asking your loved one to participate, at least for now.
Sharing Via Microblogging Can Increase Well
Then we wondered: If some people feel more comfortable posting on social networks than they do directly interacting with friends and family members, might their way of using microblogging be a way to help them feel better?
Preliminary evidence from our research suggests that writing to others who might respond such as posting on online social networks can help upset people feel better. In a laboratory study, we induced negative emotions by having participants take a brief multiple-choice test, and then by telling them they had not performed very well regardless of how well they had actually performed.
Then we split the participants into four groups and asked each to write something. One group was asked to write about office products so as to serve as a neutral baseline comparison group. Members of the other three groups were asked to write about their emotions: One groups members were told their writing would be private. One group was told that what they wrote would be shared with someone who would not be able to respond. The last group was told their writing would be shared with someone who could respond.
The potential for someone to respond made people feel better even if nobody actually did reply. Our research did not identify exactly why the benefit occurred without receiving an actual response, but it could be related to others findings that anticipating the potential of something occurring can be particularly appealing.
Social Phobia Can Extend Beyond The Social Event
A person with social phobia can feel anxious while simply anticipating an upcoming social event. After the event, the person may replay the conversations they had and rate their performance. Brooding on these feelings of social failure can make the person feel even worse, and reinforce the desire to avoid social situations in the future.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Social Anxiety Disorder
Just because you occasionally get nervous in social situations doesnt mean you have social anxiety disorder or social phobia. Many people feel shy or self-conscious on occasion, yet it doesnt get in the way of their everyday functioning. Social anxiety disorder, on the other hand, does interfere with your normal routine and causes tremendous distress.
For example, its perfectly normal to get the jitters before giving a speech. But if you have social anxiety, you might worry for weeks ahead of time, call in sick to get out of it, or start shaking so bad during the speech that you can hardly speak.
Emotional signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder:
- Excessive self-consciousness and anxiety in everyday social situations
- Intense worry for days, weeks, or even months before an upcoming social situation
- Extreme fear of being watched or judged by others, especially people you dont know
- Fear that youll act in ways that will embarrass or humiliate yourself
- Fear that others will notice that youre nervous
Physical signs and symptoms:
- Avoiding social situations to a degree that limits your activities or disrupts your life
- Staying quiet or hiding in the background in order to escape notice and embarrassment
- A need to always bring a buddy along with you wherever you go
- Drinking before social situations in order to soothe your nerves
What Causes Social Phobia
Like other phobias, social phobia is a fear reaction to something that isn’t actually dangerous although the body and mind react as if the danger is real. This means that someone feels physical sensations of fear, like a faster heartbeat and breathing. These are part of the body’s fightflight response. They’re caused by a rush of adrenaline and other chemicals that prepare the body to either fight or make a quick getaway.
This biological mechanism kicks in when we feel afraid. It’s a built-in nervous system response that alerts us to danger so we can protect ourselves. With social phobia, this response gets activated too often, too strongly, and in situations where it’s out of place. Because the physical sensations that go with the response are real and sometimes quite strong the danger seems real too. So the person will react by freezing up, and will feel unable to interact.
As the body experiences these physical sensations, the mind goes through emotions like feeling afraid or nervous.
People with social phobia tend to interpret these sensations and emotions in a way that leads them to avoid the situation . Someone else might interpret the same physical sensations of nervousness a different way .
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Take Care Of Yourself Too
Recognize that your goal is to help, not to cure the person or relieve them from their anxiety. Taking too much responsibility is actually a symptom of anxiety, so make sure youre not falling into that trap yourself.
Keep in mind that your support doesnt need to be directly focused on anxiety. For example, exercise is extremely helpful for anxiety so perhaps you could simply offer to go for a walk or attend a yoga class together. Its also fine to put some limits on your support. A 20-minute de-stressing conversation while taking a walk is far more likely to be useful than a two-hour marathon discussion.
Helping someone with anxiety isnt always easy and you may feel like youre getting it wrong. But, if you remind yourself that you and your loved one are both doing your best, it can help you keep things in perspective. Its important to remain compassionate and, as the saying goes, to put on your own oxygen mask first. That way, youll have a clearer head for figuring out whats going on with your anxious loved one and how you can truly be of help.
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Gradually Increase Your Exposure To Social Situations
This is what therapists call cognitive-behavioral therapy. And if you do choose to see a therapist, he or she can help you through the necessary steps of feeling more comfortable in public.
Dr. Weeks said it best: We avoid what frightens us, and in turn, are frightened by what we avoid.
The longer you evade social encounters, the more the fear will build up in your mind. Of course, gradual exposure will ease you into the situation so you dont become overwhelmed, so try to first imagine yourself conquering your fear. Picture yourself assuredly delivering a speech in front of your class, or confidently walking up to a group of people at a party, or even just having a relaxed conversation at your home with friends.
While you imagine this scenario, dont focus on how others might perceive you. Just picture what you would ideally look, feel, and sound like if you felt totally comfortable in this social situation that you fear. Then, just go from there. Talk to your barista at the local coffee shop when you stop by. Or go out with a trusted family member or friend to somewhere that makes you feel anxious, like a grocery store or mall.
It might feel uncomfortable or scary at first, but conquering the fears that you have implanted in your brain is a very necessary step on the path to recovery. Make sure to practice positive affirmations along your journey, because a positive mindset is a key to overcoming any challenge, no matter how big or small.
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How To Support An Employee With Social Anxiety
Theres a good chance that you manage someone with social anxiety. Nearly 50% of Americans consider themselves shy, which is just the everyday word for socially anxious. And 12%, at some point in life, will meet criteria for Social Anxiety Disorder. So how do you manage someone who is terrified of public speaking, or clams up when put on the spot in a meeting? First, only bring up the issue if its affecting their performance or they ask for your help. Then, be their champion. Set clear roles and expectations Structure can set a socially anxious person free. If they are a perfectionist , help them calibrate how to prioritize their time. And be sure they know how much you value their positive attributes, like empathy and kindness.
Calvin calls in sick on days hes supposed to give a presentation. Melinda has stellar ideas she only communicates through email. And Jess told you outright that she has a diagnosis of social anxiety.
Theres a good chance that you manage someone with social anxiety. You are not alone. Nearly 50% of Americans consider themselves shy, which is just the everyday word for socially anxious. And 12%, at some point in life, will meet criteria for Social Anxiety Disorder, which means their anxiety gets in the way of living the life they want or causes great distress . Indeed, social anxiety ranks as the third most common psychological disorder, right after the heavy hitters of depression and alcoholism.
What Is Social Phobia
It’s natural to feel self-conscious, nervous, or shy in front of others at times. Most people get through these moments when they need to. But for some, the anxiety that goes with feeling shy or self-conscious can be extreme.
When people feel so self-conscious and anxious that it prevents them from speaking up or socializing most of the time, it’s probably more than shyness. It may be an anxiety condition called social phobia .
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Help Them Find Ways To Engage
“If your friend is at all open to this idea, help them find ways to engage in the social occasion,” Carbonell says. Again, don’t put the emphasis on comfort, but on active engagement.
For example, if making chitchat with someone at a party elevates your loved one’s anxiety, help support them in this action. “That will be more productive than helping them avoid contact with others,” Carbonell says.
And while you should always encourage and praise whatever active engagement your friend or family member is willing to do, remember to leave the choices up to them , he adds.
Focus On Their Feelings
You dont need to ask your friend why they are feeling anxious. Instead, ask them how they are feeling. It can encourage them to make a list of their symptoms. Do not bombard them with questions. Allow them to feel the way they do without interruption or guilt. If theyre crying, let them cry. If they are overreacting, let them overreact. Giving them room to feel will allow them to release the pressure they are feeling.
Physical feelings of anxiety, such as stiffness or stomach pains, usually start with thoughts or ideas. It would help if you first asked your friend what they are worried about. As they describe their fear to you, stay calm no matter how unrealistic their fears or anxiety triggers seem. Keep in mind that, to your friend, these worries are real and impact their life. They are not to be dismissed as unrealistic or irrelevant. Meet these confessions of worries with curiosity and support, not judgment.
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Surround Yourself With Positive People
If at all possible, try to spend more time with positive people people who love you, believe in you, and see the beauty in who you are despite your social anxiety.
Spending time with these people will make you feel good and help you to weather any rough times as you try to make changes in your life.
What Does It Feel Like
The experience may be not the same for everyone, but if someone has Social Phobia and theyre in a really stressful situation, they might show physical symptoms like:
- Muscle tension
- Helplessness to catch a breath
- Out-of-body commotion
They may start having symptoms and getting the anxiety immediately before an event, or they might spend weeks and days worrying about it. Afterwards, they could spend a lot of time and psychic energy worrying about how they reacted. What people really thought of them. However, knowing the symptoms might be very useful to you if you want to help someone with Social Phobia.
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Does Social Phobia Affect The Way You Think About Yourself
It can be very wearing to suffer from a social phobia – other people do things easily when you find them impossible.
You may worry that others will think you are boring. You may be over-sensitive and reluctant to bother other people.
It’s easy to see how this can make you feel depressed and unhappy. This, in turn, can make the social phobia worse.
Many sufferers cope by arranging their lives around their symptoms.
This means that they have to miss out on things they might otherwise enjoy.
They can’t visit their children’s school, can’t do the shopping or go to the dentist. They may even actively avoid promotion at work, even though they are quite capable of doing a more demanding and more financially rewarding job.
About half of those with a severe phobia, particularly men, will have difficulty in making long-term relationships.
We really don’t know. It seems to affect people who:
- have particularly high standards for their behaviour in public
- who have stammered as a child.
Some experts think that it might be due to people getting stuck at the normal stage of shyness that all children go through between the ages of three and seven.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
SSRIs are often the first-line treatment for social anxiety and depression.
Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter, a molecule that helps send messages throughout your body. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression and anxiety.
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Work With Their Emotions
The key thing to remember is that anxiety is not a rational disorder. Therefore, a rational response will most likely not help, especially during a moment of distress. Instead, try to work with the emotions. Accept that they feel anxious and, rather than being direct, be patient and kind. Remind them that while they may feel distressed, the feeling will pass.
Work with the irrational thoughts and acknowledge that the person is worried. For example, try something like: I can understand why you feel that way, but I can assure you that its just your anxiety. It isnt real.