The Secret to Living with Social Anxiety
Do you often feel embarrassed, as though you’re being watched and judged? Social anxiety affects about 7 percent of adults, and it’s twice as common in women than in men.
You may feel uncomfortable around others in general or in particular situations.
Common triggers include public speaking, eating, large crowds, and interacting with strangers.
The condition usually develops early in life. You’re likely to see the first symptoms when you’re a child or in your 20s.
Both emotional and physical reactions are involved. Your mind may go blank, and your heart rate may speed up. You may have trouble speaking and making eye contact, along with blushing and trembling.
Keep in mind that social anxiety is more than ordinary shyness. The symptoms are so intense that they disrupt your life or cause significant distress. However, the success rate is high if you seek appropriate care and work on your coping skills.
Suggestions for Dealing with Social Anxiety
While some medical conditions are obvious for anyone to see, social anxiety is often invisible to others. That alone may help you to feel a little more at ease while you explore your options for managing your condition.
Try these tips to alleviate social anxiety:
- Consider therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy can play an important part in your recovery. You’ll work with a counselor who can help you reframe your thoughts and try out new responses.
- Consider medication. Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants such as Paxil and Zoloft. This could be in addition to other drugs if you’re diagnosed with more than one disorder.
- Accept yourself. There are steps you can take on your own too. You might find that your symptoms are less severe if you acknowledge your feelings instead of resisting them. Replace self-criticism with gentle and reassuring words.
- Avoid overthinking. Do you replay conversations in your head and dwell on awkward moments? Let go of the past and focus on what you can differently next time.
- Start small. Each time you face your fears, you teach yourself that you’re stronger than you think. Begin with minor challenges and work your way up.
- Engage in small talk. Social anxiety can make it difficult to develop your communication skills. Take advantage of opportunities to boost your self-image and abilities by initiating pleasant conversations.
- Act confident. Imagine what your life would be like if you had more faith in yourself. Just looking more poised can enhance your performance and win others over to your side.
Suggestions for Dealing with Any Form of Anxiety
Many coping strategies for general anxiety also work with social anxiety. In fact, up to 80% of patients are diagnosed with additional mental health disorders, including other types of anxiety, phobias, and depression.
Try these tips:
- Practice self-care. Lower your stress levels and pay attention to your mental and physical health. Eat a balanced diet. Aim for 8 hours of sleep each night. Quit smoking and use alcohol and caffeine in moderation.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity is one of the most effective ways to relax safely. Treat yourself to a membership at a local gym or exercise studio. Spend time playing tennis or hiking outdoors.
- Breathe deeply. For fast relief, learn calming breathing techniques. Put your hand on your stomach and chest, so you can slow down, and feel the air entering and leaving your body.
- Seek social support. Ask your family and friends for help when you need it. You may also want to join a support group where you can share your experiences with others who are working to overcome anxiety issues.
Many experts believe that social anxiety has genetic and environmental causes often tied to difficult experiences in childhood. However, effective treatments are available that can help you change old patterns and lead a happier life.