Dealing with Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is one of the most common anxiety disorders. It is a chronic mental condition where people have  intense fear of social interactions, making it hard to go out, make friends, or interact with others. People with social anxiety tend to fear and avoid social situations. They are very concerned that they will do something embarrassing, or that others will judge them. It is normal to feel anxious in social situations from time to time. For example, most people feel anxious when they have to speak in front of a large group. Social anxiety becomes a problem when it becomes quite distressing and starts getting in the way of your ability to function and enjoy life. Trivial tasks such as filling in a form with people around and eating in public places or with friends may become highly stressful for somebody with social anxiety.

Social anxiety can affect daily tasks, including school life, work, and other activities. Behavioral and emotional signs and symptoms include : fear of situations in which you may be judged, worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself, intense fear of interacting or talking with strangers, fear that others will notice that you look anxious, fear of physical symptoms that may cause you embarrassment, such as blushing, sweating, trembling or having a shaky voice, avoiding doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment, avoiding situations where you might be the center of attention, having anxiety in anticipation of a feared activity or event, enduring a social situation with intense fear or anxiety, spending time after a social situation analyzing your performance and identifying flaws in your interactions, expecting the worst possible consequences from a negative experience during a social situation etc. The physical symptoms include: trembling, sweating , feeling nauseous , trouble catching your breath, avoiding eye contact, feeling dizzy , weeping, tantrums, clinging to parents, or isolation in children

In order to deal with social anxiety, we need to change the way we think, and change what we do. Methods to overcome social anxiety include:

  1. Social anxiety becomes a medical condition when everyday social interactions cause excessive fear, self-consciousness, and embarrassment. Anxiety can be harder to treat if you wait. Hence its important to get help. Medications and psychotherapy can help us gain confidence and improve our ability to interact with others.
  2. An important first step in learning to manage social anxiety involves better understanding your social anxiety. Take a couple of weeks to notice which situations cause you anxiety and what you experience physically when you are in those situations. Keep a journal or a list to keep track. It is a lot easier to manage your anxiety when you have a better understanding .
  3. When we’re in a social situation with a group of people, our focus of attention becomes totally caught up in our own thoughts and feeling. Hence, it is important to learn how to change our focus of attention and take more control over how we react to thoughts . We can learn to just notice the thoughts, acknowledge them, then let them pass and turn your focus of attention to something else.

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