The Truth About Social Anxiety
We’ve all felt nervous and uncomfortable in social settings before. Whether it was because we were worried about how well we’d fit in at a new job or meeting a significant other’s family for the first time, it’s normal to feel some sense of anxiety when encountering new social situations. For some people, however, the level of anxiety they feel when interacting with others is so deep that it affects their entire life, even when they’re completely alone. It’s one thing to be shy, but social anxiety is a real disorder that affects millions of people around the globe, unbeknownst to others or even themselves.
Social Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
Social anxiety is marked by fear of social situations, especially ones that are unfamiliar or that involve being watched or potentially judged by others. Although everyone wants to be liked and may worry about the impressions they leave from time to time, people who suffer from social anxiety disorder or a social phobia are consumed by an extreme fear of being scrutinized, judged and disliked. Some common social anxiety symptoms include:
- Excessive self-consciousness.
- Intense worry for periods leading up to social situations.
- Intense fear of being watched, judged and criticized by others.
- Fear of acting in a manner that is embarrassing.
- Fear of others recognizing your anxiety.
There are also physical symptoms of social anxiety such as sweaty palms, red face, racing heart, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath and a shaking that can spread from the hands all the way to the voice.
Social Anxiety Causes
The reasons behind social anxiety can be different for every person. Some people may be genetically predispositioned to suffer from anxiety disorders. An oversized amygdala results in a heightened fear response, which could make someone more prone to experiencing exaggerated anxiety.
Social phobia and other anxiety disorders are often present in families, though it’s unsure whether the link is genetic so much as a learned behavior. There have been ties found between social anxiety disorders and children who had overprotective parents. Personal circumstances and other traumatizing life experiences, especially ones experienced during formative years, can also lead to the development of social anxiety.
Social Anxiety Disorder Treatments
While some people want to take anxiety medications, there are also ways of overcoming social anxiety naturally. A psychologist can help suffers of social phobia how to identify their triggers and symptoms and cope with them in healthy ways. These can include rationalizing emotions and thoughts, breathing exercises and cognitive behavioral therapy techniques such as challenging negative thoughts, confronting social situations in a systematic way rather than avoiding them altogether and even group therapy sessions with other sufferers.
Although there is no specific social anxiety disorder test, a psychologist will ask you a variety of questions and may ask you to explain some examples of your anxiety in past social situations to discern whether or not you have a clinical anxiety disorder.
Overcoming Social Anxiety: One Step at a Time
You should never feel as if you need to conquer your fears in one therapy session or social outing. Social anxiety is a disorder that takes time and patience to overcome, but with a good support system and healthy mindset, you will be able to grow your confidence and branch out further and further socially over time. Although those with social phobia may not ever fully be able to escape their nagging thoughts, it is more than possible to gain the type of self-esteem and mentality needed to lead a happy life.