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How To Manage Social Anxiety

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Social anxiety is quite common. But if it interferes with daily life for you or your child, it might be time to deal with it.

There are several strategies that can help you manage social anxiety:

  • Prepare for social events.
  • Take a gradual approach to social events.
  • Use positive self-talk.
  • Work on your wellbeing.

And if you find that social anxiety is still an issue even when you start using these strategies, its a good idea to get some professional support.

When you manage your social anxiety, its good for you and good for your child. For example, if you can go to social events with your child, your child gets the chance to develop friendship skills, conversation skills, confidence, self-esteem and a sense of independence as they get older. Your child also sees you managing your anxiety in healthy ways, which sets a great example.

What Causes Social Anxiety Disorder

Risk for social anxiety disorder may run in families, but no one knows for sure why some family members have it while others dont. Researchers have found that several parts of the brain are involved in fear and anxiety and that genetics influences how these areas function. By studying how the brain and body interact in people with social anxiety disorder, researchers may be able to create more targeted treatments. In addition, researchers are looking at the ways stress and environmental factors play a role in the disorder.

Take A Test To See How You Feel

If youre unsure about the way you feel, take our anonymous online test to check whether your levels of stress, anxiety, or depression are within a healthy range, and see if one of our online programs could help.

What Causes Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety doesnt have one specific cause. It generally develops from a complex combination of a few different factors, like genes, personality, and early life experiences.

Research suggests that theres a genetic component to social anxiety disorder. There isnt a set selection of genes that have been shown to cause social anxiety. However, it does seem to run in families and having a family member with social anxiety increases your chance of having this disorder as well.

Peoples early life experiences also influence the development of social anxiety. Experiencing situations that impact your confidence at a young age can be a risk factor for social anxiety, like overly critical parenting, bullying, or being excluded from important social groups. However, social anxiety can also develop in people who didnt have any significant negative experiences growing up.

Personality factors also contribute to social anxiety. Social anxiety is more common in people who are naturally shy or introverted. Personality traits like being perfectionistic and self-critical, or being a worrier, can also lead to social anxiety.

How To Deal With Social Anxiety

What is CBT?

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Be Gentle With Yourself

Be kind and gentle with yourself throughout your journey. Youre taking on a huge task and trying to overcome your social anxiety. It wont be easy, and youll probably have setbacks. Reminding yourself that youre human and not perfect will help. Everyone feels embarrassed or uncomfortable at some point in their lives. Give yourself the grace that youd give anyone else whos trying to make a change in their life. If you have setbacks, its OK.

Using the social anxiety tips here, you can begin on a path to becoming a strong, confident, engaging person who looks forward to time spent with others. You dont have to live with the crippling fear of social events. You deserve a full life, with enriching engagements and interactions that fill your world with joy and companionship. With just a little help, you can learn how to overcome social anxiety.

1. Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Adaa.org. . Published 2021. Accessed December 27, 2021.

Struggles With Intimacy Or Commitment In Friendships Or Romantic Relationships

8 Tips for Managing Social Anxiety

Heightened anxiety is essentially your body going into fight or flight mode because it thinks you are in danger. So if your body is working extra hard to protect you and keep you safe, it makes sense that you would find it extra hard to be vulnerable and open up with other people.

But all healthy relationshipsespecially romantic relationshipsare built on intimacy . So if you cant be vulnerable, it severely limits your ability to grow and deepen your relationships, which eventually can lead to conflict or struggle in the relationship itself.

And once again, this unfortunately becomes a vicious cycle: the less willing you are to be vulnerable, the more the relationship struggles but the more the relationship struggles, the more anxious and afraid you are to be vulnerable.

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Keep Things In Perspective

  • Remind yourself that people tend to pay a lot of attention to their own lives and far less than we think to other peoples lives. This means that people are very unlikely to be paying as much attention to the things you do or say as you think they are.
  • Remember that people make mistakes all the time. Even if you make a mistake, you are not the first person to, and you wont be the last.
  • Remind yourself that even if you do make a mistake, most people will still be there for you.
  • If your concern persists, check it out by sharing your worry with someone you trust and asking for feedback. Being direct like this can feel scary but truth is almost always kinder than your story!
  • Check out our article on tips for positive thinking for more affirmations.

What Is Social Anxiety Disorder Or Social Phobia

Many people get nervous or self-conscious on occasion, like when giving a speech or interviewing for a new job. But social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is more than just shyness or occasional nerves. Social anxiety disorder involves intense fear of certain social situationsespecially situations that are unfamiliar or in which you feel youll be watched or evaluated by others. These situations may be so frightening that you get anxious just thinking about them or go to great lengths to avoid them, disrupting your life in the process.

Underlying social anxiety disorder is the fear of being scrutinized, judged, or embarrassed in public. You may be afraid that people will think badly of you or that you wont measure up in comparison to others. And even though you probably realize that your fears of being judged are at least somewhat irrational and overblown, you still cant help feeling anxious. But no matter how painfully shy you may be and no matter how bad the butterflies, you can learn to be comfortable in social situations and reclaim your life.

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  • Attending parties or other social gatherings

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Take Charge With The Venue

A guy once asked me to go bowling on a first date. Yeah, no thanks! I was nervous enough as it was without having to worry about being terrible at bowling. If a particular setting puts you on edge, you can always laugh the request off and say something like, Maybe on the second date! Then, suggest somewhere youd feel more comfortable going.

Talk Back To Negative Thoughts

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These thoughts might be about people or situations, and they may even be automatic. Most of the time, theyâre wrong. But they can cause you to misread things like facial expressions. This could lead you to assume people are thinking things about you that they arenât.

One way to do this is simply to use pen and paper:

  • Think of all the negative thoughts you have in specific situations.
  • Write them down.
  • Write down positive thoughts that challenge negative ones.
  • Hereâs a broad example:

    • Negative thought: âThis situation makes me so anxious, I wonât be able to deal with it.â
    • Challenge: âIâve felt anxious before but Iâve always gotten through it. Iâll do my best to focus on the positive parts of the experience.â

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    How To Get Over Social Anxiety

    Dr. Potter stresses that its important to address your social anxiety, even if this feels difficult since it can have a major impact on your life. It can have subtle negative effects on your career, friendships, dating life, or even family relationships, she says. It can affect you so broadly when you miss opportunities. When a persons isolated, it can lead to depression because you miss opportunities to have a good time or enjoy yourself, and feel connected to other people.

    Luckily, Dr. Potter notes that social anxiety is very treatable, although strategies for overcoming social anxiety depend both on your individual personality and how much the disorder is affecting your life. For example, if you have panic attacks when going out in public because you are so overwhelmed, you might opt for medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both. Less severe anxiety might be better served by a different treatment option.

    Here are a few other ways to approach getting over social anxiety.

    Ask Your Support System For A Helping Hand

    It can be embarrassing or humbling to admit to people in your life that youre anxious in social situations and might need help. However, letting a friend or loved one know you might need some extra support can be a major boost. Many times, people are going to feel more comfortable if theyre in a social situation with somebody that theyre close to, Dr. Potter says. Especially if somebody has been fairly isolated in recent times, it can be helpful at first to have a buddy when you go back into a social situation.

    The key to this support is helping an anxious person become more independent over time. Eventually, people with more generalized social anxiety will find it uncomfortable to go shopping or order food by themselves, Dr. Potter explains. You want to balance supporting a person and encouraging them to do it themselves.

    If youre a friend or family member of somebody anxious in social situations, one way to offer support is to bring them into the conversation. You might be like, Oh, I think Sara has something she would probably like to say on that subject. Shes really interested in that, Dr. Potter says. You can support them by bringing them out of their shells. Before doing that, however, be sure to ask the person if thats OK. If youre a person with social anxiety, you may not like being put on the spot to say something. Talk to that person in advance about how they want to handle certain things.

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    Common Signs And Symptoms Of Social Anxiety

    While experiencing fear and anxiety is a normal part of life, people with anxiety disorders are burdened with intense worry toward everyday social situations. As a result, they may develop an intense social phobia. Common signs and symptoms of social anxiety include feeling restless around others, having a sense of impending doom, and having difficulty controlling their worry. Physical symptoms such as an increased heart rate, excessive sweating, or weight loss can also be symptoms of anxiety in patients.

    If you are experiencing these signs and symptoms of anxiety, and they are interfering with your life, contact your doctors office to schedule an appointment immediately. Your negative thoughts, social phobia, and other signs and symptoms may not go away over time. In fact, they may actually grow worse. Your doctor may give you an official diagnosis for your symptoms. You may be dealing with a panic disorder as a result of a traumatic life event or physical symptoms of anxiety from a physical health problem.

    Eat Your Fruits And Veggies

    Manage Social Anxiety

    We all know the benefits of these nutrition-packed foods. Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of potassium, folate, Vitamins C and A, which help to maintain our bodily functions.

    Go by the 2+2 rule and eat two servings of fruits and two servings of vegetables each day. Starchy vegetables like potatoes are not counted as they contain a higher concentration of carbohydrates.

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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.

    Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

    Among the different kinds of psychotherapy available, cognitive behavioral therapy which involves making changes to the way you think and feel about a situation, which, in turn, can help you modify your behavior is a helpful way to approach social anxiety. With social anxiety specifically, you want to identify patterns of thinking that cause you to avoid social situations like if a persons always expecting the worst outcome, or a person is fixated on the fact that someone might see them blushing, or sweating or stammering, says Dr. Potter. You want to help them learn to challenge those expectations and adopt more positive self-talk rather than negative self-talk.

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    Social Phobia Underlying Fears

    Some of the fears commonly aroused by social situations can include:

    • worry that others will notice their physical symptoms of anxiety, such as blushing, sweating, and stammering
    • fear of looking stupid, silly, or ridiculous
    • fear of appearing quiet, boring and uninteresting to others
    • fear of being judged as socially inadequate.

    Drinking Too Much Caffeine

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    In addition to prescription and over-the-counter medications, caffeine is a common stimulant that can lead to increased anxiety. While caffeine is harmless to many people, it is ultimately mood-altering and may make anxiety symptoms worse. If you suspect that caffeine is a trigger, consider weaning yourself off food and drink like soda, caffeinated coffee and chocolate.

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    Building A Support System

    Having a support system is important for any kind of mental health condition someone may be experiencing, social anxiety included, says Halstead. She explains that experiencing social anxiety can feel isolating, and opening up to people you trust can be difficult, but ultimately it can be beneficial to see first-hand that your loved ones want to support you.

    Dr. Chapman adds that he often has clients with this condition attend a support group with other people with social anxiety disorder. It actually works as a part of exposure therapy because a support group is in its nature a social setting, he says. Its an extremely safe place to open up about your experience because you know the others there are experiencing it too.

    The best way to find a support group near you is to ask a local therapist or research social anxiety support groups in your area. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America also has a search tool to locate support groups, including ones that meet virtually.

    Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

    SSRIs are often the first-line treatment for social anxiety and depression.

    These medications which include paroxetine and sertraline work by increasing the level of serotonin in your brain.

    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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    Social Anxiety Is Maintained Through Avoidance

    Avoidance shows up as behaviors that look like hiding, according to Hendriksen. These behaviors may be overt walking around your entire office building so that you dont enter at the same time as someone else or rushing out of the room right after a meeting. They can also be more covert: not raising your hand during class even when your grade depends on it or staying silent during team meetings even when you have a question.

    This avoidance is typically driven by hyper self-consciousness. Social anxiety makes us believe that theres something wrong with us and that others will see through these fatal flaws that we possess. Hendriksen explained that this need for avoidance also highlights another important characteristic of social anxiety: an all-or-nothing thought process. This is often driven by perfectionism. Because perfectionists set such high standards for themselves, anything short of being exceptional can feel unacceptable and trigger anxiety . When we give ourselves little wiggle room to make mistakes, it turns every exchange even the mundane ones into a high-stakes situation.

    Not Getting Enough Sleep

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    Lack of sleep, especially serious sleep disturbances like insomnia, can be a sign of an anxiety disorder. If you’re worried about the events of the following day or stressed about a social interaction that happened today, you may end up tossing and turning until all hours.

    Nighttime anxiety may actually affect your rapid eye movement sleep. This turns anxiety and sleep into a vicious cycle. You can’t sleep because you’re anxious, and then you wake tired and anxious because you didn’t get good sleep. If you think lack of sleep is a trigger of your anxiety, consider changing your sleep routine. Eliminate light and noise from your sleep environment and avoid caffeine and alcohol shortly before bed. A nighttime tea may also help.

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