Social anxiety is becoming more and more common in today's world. Every year, millions of people struggle with anxiety disorders and they try to work through them on their own. Social anxiety, or social phobia, is "a strong fear of being judged by others and of being embarrassed. This fear can be so strong that it gets in the way of going to work or school or doing other everyday things. NIMH, n.d)." This disorder can be incredibly debilitating and can cause people to really struggle with a number of areas of their life.
Those who struggle with social anxiety disorder or social phobia will often find themselves incredibly uncomfortable in most or all social situations. For some of them, it could be something as simple as going to the grocery store or going to a social gathering of friends that will end up setting them off. It can be a really difficult disorder for people to deal with, and because of that, it's helpful to understand important coping skills (Smith, 2013).
Here are some common coping skills that you can try if you struggle with social anxiety disorder; consider trying them next time you go out in public or you associate with other people on a regular basis.
- Don't beat yourself up over having anxious thoughts and feelings. If you struggle with social phobia, you're going to struggle with these thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. It's very hard to pull yourself out of them, but if you focus too much on whether or not you have them, you're going to cause more problems for yourself in the end. So if you have anxious thoughts, acknowledge them instead of beating yourself up over them. That way, you recognize that they are real and you are in a better place to start dealing with those thoughts and feelings as well.
- Use coping methods that help you to come back to reality. Many times, social anxiety is paired with panic attacks, which are incredibly unpleasant events of complete panic that sometimes come close to feeling like you are having a heart attack. They can be frightening, and many times, people will catch their minds racing during these times. Others explain them as an "out of body" experience where they can't come back to reality. Instead of allowing that to happen, try some exercises that will help you come back to the real world; one of the best ways to do so is by rubbing your hands against your thighs. You become conscious of your body and feel more "grounded," which can pull you out of panic mode.
- Be in the moment. One issue that many people with social phobia have is that they think too far ahead and worry about the "what if's." By living in the moment and thinking about what is going on right now, you are going to be less likely to allow your mind to wander, thus preventing the lack of control and panic that sometimes comes as a result of social phobia. So try living in the moment that you are in right now, and you will start to see at least a little bit of relief from your anxiety symptoms and feelings.
Your therapist can also give you tips and information about what you can do in order to deal with your social anxiety disorder. In short, you need to realize that you are truly not alone - there are other people out there who understand what you're going through and will walk with you through the whole entire thing.
In some of the most severe cases of social anxiety or social phobia, you will find that the above methods will work temporarily, but you may struggle a bit when it comes to living the rest of your life. There are a number of other treatments that you should consider when you struggle with social anxiety disorder, including psychotherapy (specifically, behavioral therapy) and possibly medication. Because social anxiety is most often associated with other mental illnesses, thus resulting in a dual diagnosis, you may also need treatment of the other disorders in order to have a better handle of your social anxiety.
As you can see, there are a number of things you have to consider when it comes to social anxiety disorder. This article is meant to just give you a brief overview of the disorder so that you can work your way through it if you've already started to struggle with it. As with most medical diagnoses, you should consult with a doctor to make sure that you get the help that you need in order to live a fulfilling, happy life.
Markway, B., & Markway, G. (2013, May 5). Must-Have Coping Strategies for Social Anxiety. Retrieved May 22, 2014, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shyness-is-nice/201305/must-have-coping-strategies-social-anxiety
National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder). Retrieved May 20, 2014, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/social-phobia-social-anxiety-disorder/index.shtml
Richards, T. A. (2013). About Social Anxiety. Retrieved May 21, 2014, from http://socialphobia.org/
Smith, M., & Jaffe-Gill, E. (n.d.). Social Anxiety Disorder & Social Phobia. Retrieved May 20, 2014, from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/social_anxiety_support_symptom_causes_treatment.htm
Social anxiety disorder (social phobia). (2011, August 23). Retrieved May 24, 2014, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/social-anxiety-disorder/basics/definition/con-20032524