Overcoming Social Anxiety Disorder
How can individuals overcome social anxiety? It may not be easy for some people to overcome their social anxiety. They may avoid triggers and live a more isolated life, or only associate with close family and friends to avoid upsetting social situations. If a person wants to address their social anxiety directly, they can decide to seek treatment. Typical treatments for social anxiety and social anxiety disorders include:
- Support groups
The overall goal of social anxiety disorder treatment is to help an individual identify social anxiety triggers that they commonly avoid, decide which trigger they are most fearful of, test their triggers, develop effective coping strategies and gradually expose themselves to their triggers until they are no longer uncomfortable with that particular social situation.
Do you or a loved one struggle with both social anxiety and addiction? The Recovery Village can help. Contact a representative to discuss treatment options for co-occurring social anxiety and addiction.
More Than Shyness: What It Feels Like To Have Social Anxiety
Some people are afraid to leave their homes. Others are stuck in dead-end jobs. Too many are too afraid to participate in the simplest of social encounters. Hearts race and pulses pound from the constant fear of judgement, embarrassment and humiliation.
This is the reality of social anxiety disorder, one of the most common yet misunderstood anxiety problems.
Social anxiety disorder affects an estimated 15 million Americans. New evidence shows that a gene that transports serotonin a brain chemical that helps with stabilizing mood, appetite and sleep was associated with the disorder, according to a study published in the journal Psychiatric Genetics. Although more work needs to be done, researchers hope ongoing research will help with earlier diagnosis.
Physical Symptoms Of Social Anxiety
The physical symptoms of social anxiety disorder are probably the ones that most people think of when the topic of social anxiety comes up. These symptoms are such things as blushing, sweating, shaking, a racing heart, shortness of breath, and nausea. The irony is that often, people with social anxiety disorder are most fearful of others noticing the physical anxiety symptoms that they have.
Paige experiences physical symptoms of anxiety when in various situations at work. In meetings when she is asked a question or called upon to speak, she blushes profusely, hoping others wont notice. When she has to lead a meeting or give a presentation, her hands shake, voice trembles, and it feels like she cant catch her breath. Her mouth goes dry, making it hard to speak, and she can feel her heart start to race and pound both before and during the times she is in the spotlight.
Other physical symptoms of social anxiety include the following:
- Tightness in the chest or chest pain
- A lump in the throat
- Blurry vision
- Feeling disoriented
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Understanding The Three Types Of Social Anxiety Symptoms
What does anxiety feel like? The answer to this question will be different for each person, depending on what type of anxiety you experience.
There are several anxiety disorders that are recognized and each has its own unique cluster of symptoms. However, there are also some common threads that tie all anxiety disorders together.
There are also varying levels of anxiety. For example, a person with generalized anxiety disorder might live with a constant state of worry and anxiety, without ever experiencing a full-blown panic attack. Someone with panic disorder, on the other hand, might primarily have full-out panic episodes without that general underlying worry about daily matters.
What Does Social Anxiety Look Like In An Extrovert
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NOTE: I am NOT a healthcare professional. All my suggestions and opinions regarding mental health and chronic illness are based on my own experiences. If you are struggling with mental or chronic illness, please see a healthcare professional.
The terms introvert and extrovert have grown in popularity in recent years due to the increased interest in personality tests. Because of this, however, the meaning of the terms have become very muddled. People tend to think of these two groups as extreme opposites.
So what happens when an extrovert starts having stereotypical introvert qualities? What does social anxiety look like in an extrovert?
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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 .
Strike Up A Conversation
Do you shy away from talking to strangers? Do you avoid eye contact at the grocery store? Do you look at your feet in the elevator? Today, instead of doing what you normally do in those situations, try doing the opposite. Engage the other person in a bit of small talk, just for the sake of getting the practice and learning not to be afraid.
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When Does It Happen
In some people with social anxiety disorder, the fear is limited to one or two particular situations, like speaking in public or initiating a conversation. Others are very anxious and afraid of any social situation.
Anyone with social anxiety disorder can experience it in different ways. But here are some common situations that people tend to have trouble with:
- Talking to strangers
- Eating in front of other people
- Going to school or work
- Starting conversations
Some of these situations might not cause a problem for you. For example, giving a speech may be easy, but going to a party might be a nightmare. Or you could be great at one-on-one conversations but not at stepping into a crowded classroom.
All socially anxious people have different reasons for dreading certain situations. But in general, itâs an overwhelming fear of:
- Being judged or watched by others in social situations
- Being embarrassed or humiliated — and showing it by blushing, sweating, or shaking
- Accidentally offending someone
- Being the center of attention
Dread And Worry Over Upcoming Events
We think about upcoming events too much, and negatively predict the outcomes of such events. Worrying about the future focuses our attention on our shortcomings. We may experience anticipatory anxiety for weeks, because we feel the event will cripple us emotionally . Worrying causes more worry, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Our fear and anxiety is built up to gigantic proportions, the more time we spend worrying about the future. We make mountains out of molehills.
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Its Just Easier To Avoid Social Situations
In public places, such as work, meetings, or shopping, people with social anxiety feel that everyone is watching and staring at them . The socially anxious person cant relax, “take it easy”, and enjoy themselves in public. In fact, they can never relax when other people are around. It always feels like others are evaluating them, being critical of them, or “judging” them in some way. The person with social anxiety knows that people dont do this openly, of course, but they still feel the self-consciousness and the judgment while they are in the other persons presence. Its sometimes impossible to let go, relax, and focus on anything else except the anxiety. Because the anxiety is so very painful, its much easier just to stay away from social situations and avoid other people.
How Long Does Social Anxiety Medication Take To Work
Antidepressants can take weeks to start working. Although it might be difficult to have to wait until you start feeling better, its important to begin treatment if you have social anxiety disorder, and to stick with it. Ask your healthcare provider or psychiatrist when you can expect to feel better after starting an antidepressant.
Anti-anxiety medications usually take effect quickly. Theyre usually not taken for long periods of time because people can build up a tolerance to them. Over time, higher and higher doses are needed to get the same effect. Anti-anxiety medications can be prescribed for short periods while the antidepressant starts to work.
Beta-blockers also work quickly to help with specific symptoms of anxiety, such as tremors or feeling like your heart is racing. However, like the anti-anxiety medications, they cant treat depressive symptoms that may coexist with social anxiety disorder.
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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
How Do I Overcome Social Anxiety
Try these seven tips to help you feel better and get through the day.
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How Is Social Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed
A healthcare provider such as a clinician, psychologist, psychiatrist or therapist can diagnose a person with social anxiety disorder based on the criteria for social anxiety disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association. The criteria for social anxiety disorder under the DSM-5 includes:
- Experiencing continuing, intense fear or anxiety about social situations because you believe you may be judged negatively or humiliated by others.
- Avoiding social situations that may cause you anxiety, or enduring them with intense fear or anxiety.
- Experiencing intense anxiety that’s out of proportion to the situation.
- Experiencing anxiety and/or distress from social situations that interfere with your day-to-day life.
- Experiencing fear or anxiety in social situations that arent better explained by a medical condition, medication or substance abuse.
Your healthcare provider or another clinician will likely see if the DSM-5 criteria match your experience by asking questions about your symptoms and history. They may also ask you questions about your medications and do a physical exam to make sure your medication or a medical condition isnt causing your symptoms.
A person typically has to have had symptoms of social anxiety disorder for at least six months in order to be diagnosed.
How You See The World
Stop for a moment. How do you view the world? Do you see it as filled with opportunity or a place to be avoided?
Those with SAD have a tendency to narrow their worlds. This narrowing might occur in the context of your home , your friends , your work , etc.
You narrow your world because that feels safer to you. But what is the cost of this narrowing? Again, it is a loss of opportunity. One day you might wake up with few days left, and wonder why you didn’t take more chances.
A chalkboard was set up in New York City for passers-by to write down their biggest regret in life. The common theme that emerged was of the things that were not done, not said, not tried. You still have time, and you can still try.
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Symptoms Of Social Phobia
When exposed to a feared social situation, a person with social phobia may experience symptoms of extreme anxiety, including:
- feeling as if you have nothing to say
- accelerated heart rate
- feelings of self-doubt and uncertainty
- negative thoughts such as Im making a fool of myself
- difficulty concentrating on anything other than physical sensations of anxiety, negative feedback from others and negative thoughts
- an overwhelming urge to flee the situation
- the realisation that these feelings are irrational and out of proportion.
Socially Interacting With Co
Step 1: Say hello to your co-workers.
Step 2: Ask a co-worker a work-related question.
Step 3: Ask a co-worker what they did over the weekend.
Step 4: Sit in the break room with co-workers during your coffee break.
Step 5: Eat lunch in the break room with your co-workers.
Step 6: Eat lunch in the break room and make small talk with one or more of your coworkers, such as talking about the weather, sports, or current events.
Step 7: Ask a co-worker to go for a coffee or drink after work.
Step 8: Go out for lunch with a group of co-workers.
Step 9: Share personal information about yourself with one or more co-workers.
Step 10: Attend a staff party with your co-workers.
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How You Think About Yourself
Research has shown that SAD is associated with high self-criticism and lower self-esteem. People with SAD have a tendency to view themselves in a negative light. This type of thinking probably permeates every aspect of your life.
You probably have thoughts like:
- “I look stupid.”
- “I can’t control my anxiety.”
And on, and on.
These types of negative thoughts influence how you feel about yourself, and ultimately the choices that you make for yourself.
Physical Social Anxiety Symptoms
The stress associated with anxiety can take a physical toll on the body. Some people describe this as experiencing anxiety in places like their shoulders, forehead, or stomach.
Some physical manifestations of social anxiety disorder include:
- dizziness or fainting
- hyperventilating, or shortness of breath
- nausea or vomiting
- excessive sweating
- shaking or trembling
While this list can give you an indication of whether you have social anxiety disorder, its not meant to be a substitute for diagnosis.
In some cases, these symptoms can actually feed your social anxiety disorder. For instance, blushing might make your embarrassment worse if you feel its drawing unwanted attention.
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Signs Of Social Anxiety
Many people feel shy, nervous, or uncomfortable in certain situations. This is especially common in young children. Your level of comfort in social situations depends on factors like personality and life experiences.
Social anxiety disorder is different in that it includes such high levels of fear, anxiety, and avoidance that it gets in the way of your everyday life. Usually, social anxiety starts when you reach your early to mid-teens, although it can show up in people of other ages as well.
There are various signs and symptoms of social anxiety, all of which fall into three categories: emotional and behavioral signs, physical signs, and social signs. Some of the signs overlap, and many of them may flare up when you’re experiencing added stress.
Emotional and Behavioral Signs
The following emotional and behavioral symptoms may show up in people with social anxiety:
For children, emotional and behavioral signs may include:
- Throwing temper tantrums
- Clinging to parents or guardians
- Refusing to speak to people
- Eating in front of people
- Walking into a room where people are already seated
- Using a public restroom
What Does It Feel Like
Again, the experience may be different for everyone, but if you have social anxiety and youâre in a stressful situation, you may feel:
- Very self-conscious in social situations
- A persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being judged by others
- Shy and uncomfortable when being watched
- Hesitant to talk to others
- The need to avoid eye contact
You also might have physical symptoms such as:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Inability to catch breath
- An âout-of-bodyâ sensation
You may start having symptoms and getting anxious immediately before an event, or you might spend weeks worrying about it. Afterward, you could spend a lot of time and mental energy worrying about how you acted.
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Dealing With Social Phobia
People with social phobia can learn to manage fear, develop confidence and coping skills, and stop avoiding things that make them anxious. But it’s not always easy. Overcoming social phobia means getting up the courage it takes to go beyond what’s comfortable, little by little.
Here’s who can support and guide people in overcoming social phobia:
- Therapists can help people recognize the physical sensations caused by fightflight and teach them to interpret these sensations more accurately. Therapists can help people create a plan for facing social fears one by one, and help them build the skills and confidence to do it. This includes practicing new behaviors. Sometimes, but not always, medications that reduce anxiety are used as part of the treatment for social phobia.
- Family or friends are especially important for people who are dealing with social phobia. The right support from a few key people can help those with social phobia gather the courage to go outside their comfort zone and try something new. Putdowns, lectures, criticisms, and demands to change don’t help and just make a person feel bad. Having social phobia isn’t a person’s fault and isn’t something anyone chooses. Instead, friends and family can encourage people with social phobia to pick a small goal to aim for, remind them to go for it, and be there when they might feel discouraged. Good friends and family are there to celebrate each small success along the way.