Social anxiety is difficult and if you have experienced it, you know it goes beyond just shyness. In a social world, where interactions are inevitable, dealing with social anxiety is extremely difficult.
We are going to look at what social anxiety is like by exploring.
- Defining Social anxiety
- Signs and symptoms
- How to live with the disorder
- Social anxiety in terms of dating, relationships, social media, work and self-esteem
- Understanding the social anxiety scale
- Treatment and methods of coping
- What is the next step
Social Anxiety Definition
Social anxiety is anxiety with a bonus. It is the intense fear and worry in regard to social interactions. It is a phobia that goes beyond just nerves. Nerves are perfectly normal in situations where you need to do a speech, presentation, job interview, demonstration, and explanations as they pass. Social anxiety does not pass. It affects all social interactions with people.
It is a disorder that stems from a great fear of being judged by others’ on your performance, what you say, how you said it, and your thoughts. It is the fear that people will scrutinize your every move and every word, believing you are not good enough, and fearing you will just embarrass yourself in front of them.
It is walking quickly to where you have to go and submerging yourself in your work so that you do not have to speak with coworkers very long. It is avoiding eye contact and looking on the floor when passing anyone and, not seeking help in a store or class because you are afraid of embarrassing yourself.
This fear comes from any and all social interactions, especially with new experiences and people you are not familiar with. It can be caused by public speaking, talking to new people, interacting in a classroom or meeting, situations where you would be the center of attention, and going on dates with a new person.
Social Anxiety and Symptoms
The Signs and symptoms of social anxiety are the same as they are with basic anxiety. Click HERE for a comprehensive list. However, besides the fear, sweating, shaking, out-of-body experience, heart racing, knot in stomach, difficulty breathing and swallowing, there a few additional symptoms with social anxiety that are more dominant than in basic anxiety.
- Blushing, flush face
- Shaking of hands and finger tapping
- Bouncing of leg and or shaking
- Sweating and or hot flashes
- Staying quiet in social atmospheres
- Placing yourself in the back of the room, corner of the room, or a place with the least amount of interaction in the setting
- Avoiding eye contact and/or looking down
- Answering in simple phrases and words
- Going to events with a friend, unable to be alone
- Feel like floating or trembling legs when walking in public with groups of people around
- Having false ideas that people don’t like you, they are talking about you, and that you are bothering them,
- Using drugs or alcohol before social interactions to help you cope
- Playing a character you assume people want to see, rather than being your real self
- Constant paranoia
- Over analyzing peoples reactions
- Assuming others’ perception of you before you have even spoken
How to live with Social Anxiety
Living with social anxiety is hard. Today’s world is thriving with social interactions and with social media at the forefront, avoiding social interaction can be difficult. It is important to remember that humans are social by nature and NEED social interaction. Although you may think that you don’t, not talking to absolutely anyone can be bad for brain health.
There is always someone that you do feel comfortable talking to whether its immediate family, significant other, or closest friends. Engage in these conversations as much as possible as it will help you be able to speak to strangers as well.
Living with social anxiety is hurting yourself mostly. It is preventing you from experiencing life pleasures. It is preventing you from showing your truest self, which you may not know, a lot of people like. Most importantly, it prevents you from being happy because you are so refrained from showing who you are.
Social interactions are inevitable, whether through social media, going to work, class, or stepping anywhere outside of your home. Those things cannot be avoided completely, but you can learn to manage your symptoms and try to cope.
Social Anxiety and Dating
It can be hard to date when you suffer from social anxiety as the disorder stems from fear of how others’ perceive you, especially and specifically strangers. When you start to date someone, you don’t essentially know them quite well and you naturally showcase your best self in order to woo one another.
However, with social anxiety in the way, you could avoid trying to date all together because of the fear of embarrassing yourself. This leads to a lot of people being left single for very long periods in their lives and missing out on a life experience. If you continue to let social anxiety interfere with your dating life and refusing to give someone the time of day or open up, you could be left single well into later adulthood.
Social Anxiety and Relationships
Besides dating, other relationships can be affected due to social anxiety, relationships with close friends you don’t see too often anymore or perhaps family members you haven’t seen in a while. There is an added pressure to come off as a certain type of individual whenever you interact with anyone, and it can be tiring trying to pretend you are someone you are not.
When you don’t see someone often enough, no matter how close they were to you once upon a time, you put on a persona with social anxiety. There are exceptions with people who make you feel open and free to be yourself, but not always. This anxiety can ruin relationships and cause falling outs as you start to distant yourself more and more from people in your life.
Social Anxiety and Social Media
If you have social anxiety what are you afraid of? socializing. Social media requires socialization even in the comfort of your own home when your away from everybody. There’s an added pressure to have as many likes and followers as possible, as if it is one big popularity contest on who is the most sociable.
When you realize those things don’t matter in your life, that’s when you can continue to live a happier life. Social media does not have to control your life and force you to put on another persona once again, to get validation from complete strangers. Nobody has 200K friends in their life and that’s okay! It should be that way. You can be interesting to many people, and they can follow you, but that does not mean you have to interact with them all.
Social Anxiety and Finding a Job
Another important aspect social anxiety can interfere with is work. It may be difficult to do interviews as you feel you are observed and studied while you speak. This anxiety can be so bad, that it can fog up your mind where you cannot focus on the questions and formulate proper answers. You can be completely qualified, but the anxiety has now prevented you from achieving this job.
Even when you land that position, it can still take its tole on you. Avoiding coworkers and getting to know the team while isolating yourself and getting lost in your work is a prime example. Work is hard enough but this makes it harder because it makes work that much more of a drag. Coworkers are inevitable and cannot be avoided yet you still try when you have social phobia.
You may avoid customers or clients as well because of this anxiety, therefore a poor job performance can occur. Losing a job because of poor customer services and avoiding conversation can also occur.
Social Anxiety and Self Esteem
Social anxiety ruins self-esteem. It makes you doubt yourself so much that you don’t feel worthy anymore. A real confidence killer. It gets you hiding in the background in crowds and events, it gets you discouraged to ask anyone for help anywhere you go.
Social Anxiety involves the fear of being judged by others’, therefore fearing what other people think will take its toll on your self-esteem. You are left thinking you are never good enough. Hiding from situations, opportunities, and people is what prevents break through, amazing job opportunities, dating someone totally awesome, or making friends that can be life long.
Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale
This is a scale formulated by various questions in regard to social interactions and how you feel within them. It Carefully examines your interactions to determine your level of social anxiety.
It was developed by a psychiatrist by the name of Michael Liebowitz and was formulated to assist in diagnosing social anxiety. It looks at your level of fear in given situations so that appropriate client specific coping strategies can be given. Some may have a huge fear talking to people over the phone, while another person with social anxiety may not. Their fear could be presentations instead.
If you feel like you are suffering from social anxiety and that what you are feelings is beyond shyness and simple discomfort, click HERE and take the test for yourself.
Social Anxiety Treatment and Coping
1.Take appropriate anxiety reducing measures and strategies like listed HERE: Reducing your overall anxiety levels will help alleviate social anxiety symptoms as well. Taking care of your mind and mental health can help in any fears you are holding on to.
2. Focus on positive thoughts: Refrain from thinking negatively when you have to be in a social situation. Recognize when you are having a negative thought, like somebody not liking what you have to say or your opinion, and then challenge it. Ask yourself what is the worst that can happen? Think about even if you are nervous, would that really deflect the point your trying to make? If you know your competent in the subject matter dig deep and find that confidence to say what you need to say. Remember why you are there in that moment and what positive things can come from it.
3. Make sure to be present: Focus on who it is you are talking to and not on your anxiety symptoms and anxious thoughts. Engage in the conversation and remember that they are not focusing on what you are feeling internally, its not visible to the people around you, and let it go. You are not perfect, nobody is and that is why people don’t care if you make a mistake with a word or slip up. It’s your confidence that captures people. Practice that mindfulness.
4. Do what scares you: If social interactions scare you, partake in them. I know it sounds easier said then done, but you can always start small. Interact with the people you are closest with and have a meaningful interaction, then start 1 or 2 people at a time. Maybe there are some coworkers that you feel you get along with. Chat them up and see where the conversation is taking you. The more you put yourself out there, the more you see that it’s not as bad as you made it out to be. Find common interests that can spark conversation and be patient with yourself.
5. Engage in social activities: Perhaps joining a fitness group such as the ones offered in many gyms would help as you work with others’ on a common goal. Join a dance group, sign up for a course, join a particular community with common interest. This will help you engage in more conversation which would become easier over time as it forces you to be with other people but at the same time makes it fun for you. It is an activity you like after all.
6. Always Remember: Many people are suffering from social anxiety and with the rise in social media, more and more social phobias are evident. You are not alone. While you are nervous to speak to someone, remember that they may be feeling just like you in that moment and that it’s okay. Your feelings are valid. You are not the only person that feels those things and everyone has their struggles and insecurities, no matter how confident they appear. Keep this in mind when engaging with others’ to relieve some of your stress.
7. Therapy: Cognitive Behavioural Thearpy is a great form of therapy to help you face your fears by getting to the root of the problem. The therapist would then work with you to switch your thinking to more positive experiences and deminimize the fears that you are holding on to. A therapist can guide you in the most appropriate form of therapy to you for your social anxiety.
8. Gather Resources: Involve yourself in information that will give you insight into social anxiety disorder and anxiety and mental health overall. Read books on the matter, search websites that give you insight, try products and services that will help you heal, and follow accounts on social media that understand the depth of the disorder. This helps to support in a way where it feels as though you are not alone in your feelings and there are others’ just like you. It’s like a virtual support group your making for yourself and on your time.
Social Anxiety Support
Support is possible and great things can occur once you learn to let go. As debilitating as this disorder is, there are ways to overcome it with time. From tricks, services, therapies, products, lessons, education and support groups, the resources for healing are endless. It is up to you to take a step in the direction of change, change for the better.
Nobody can do it for you but you. It is up to you to take the next step so that you don’t live a life of worry and stress. Loved ones can encourage you to change and get help but, it is entirely up to you to decide what you want your future to look and feel like.
Do you have any further tricks to help cope with anxiety? Let me know in the comments below.