Social anxiety is one of the most common anxieties people face, with up to 7% of the population having experienced persistent social anxiety. Social anxiety evokes extreme feelings of fear or dread about social circumstances or situations. In order to avoid this intense fear or dread, the person may avoid social situations. This is because these feelings of dread or panic may become unbearable. People with social anxiety fear being judged or negatively assessed by others. They also fear social embarrassment or humiliation.
People with social anxiety may often appear shy or withdrawn. However, many people with social anxiety do wish to engage socially, It is feelings of fear or anxiety which surround social events which prevent the person from fully engaging. As a result, a person will avoid social situations such as going out with friends, attending work or seeking out new employment. Social anxiety, therefore, has a disruptive effect on a person’s quality of life.
People with social anxiety understand that although their feelings of dread are very real, they are also irrational. However, social anxiety is so intense that people who suffer feel so intensely uncomfortable that social situations become unbearable.
This has a great impact on a person’s feelings of freedom.
Symptoms of social anxiety
A racing heart
High levels of fear or anxiety
Blushing, sweating, dry mouth, trembling and muscle twitches
Feelings of restlessness or discomfort
Which situations trigger social anxiety?
Performances: attending work or school often means needing to perform. Speeches or presentations make a person the focus of attention and this can feel unbearable. Musical performances also trigger social anxiety and even world famous musicians such as Mike Oldfield have expressed fear and dread at performing in front of others. Evaluation produces a fear of being seen as inadequate. This can sometimes result in feelings of panic or nausea.
Going to parties or meeting new people: going to new events or meeting new people may be something to look forward to for many. However, for a person with social anxiety, this means having to make small talk or eating and drinking in front of others. Group conversations may make a person feel put in the spotlight, which can feel very uncomfortable.
Going for an interview for a job or even a college application can be difficult for a person with social anxiety. In a job interview, the candidate is often the focus of attention. A person who takes part in a job interview is undergoing an evaluation and this can feel intimidating for a person with social anxiety. Many avoid any attempt at career advancement because of this
Multiple triggers: there are many situations, such as company dinners, when a person with social anxiety will face multiple triggers. If a person attends an event where food is served, he or she may have to meet new people, and may even have to present his or her recent work, this can feel very intimidating and upsetting.
It helps to understand which triggers are present
People with social anxiety have different triggers. By understanding what these triggers are, it is possible to help a person with social anxiety to find a comfortable solution. Although a person may not manage to go out to a bar or party with a group of new people, she may happily go to a quiet coffee bar. If a situation such as a job interview or presentation feels unavoidable, focusing on calming techniques (such as placing dread or anxiety into a pen and splashing it out) can help a person to cope with a difficult situation.
Is social anxiety treatable?
Social anxiety is often considered to be a chronic condition because it doesn’t go away without therapeutic treatment. However, with treatment, people who suffer are able to improve their quality of life.
Social anxiety is treated using cognitive psychology. A person learns to question the thoughts or anxieties which come to mind during difficult social situations. By questioning their cognitive schemas, or ways of viewing the world, a person can learn new methods of coping. Cognitive therapy can challenge the belief that everybody should approve of us. It can also help us to notice when we are making assumptions about others and what they may think or feel.
By engaging in psychotherapy, a client with social anxiety will learn to share his or her fears and anxieties while being treated with empathy and kindness. This positive mirroring can assist an anxious client to perceive both himself and a situation through a different lens. While difficult or uncomfortable, a negative social evaluation does not have to be seen as catastrophic. In
addition, others (such as the therapist) will treat the client with kindness and compassion during anxious moments.
It is through looking that a situation with care and compassion that a client can understand that one job may not work out well, but there will be others. Socially anxious clients can approach others who are quiet at parties. They can learn presentation skills (such as those offered by Toast Masters) so that presentations become easier. These tips and techniques can be used to assist socially anxious people to cope with situations which trigger their anxiety. This is often crucial to improving quality of life.
Social anxiety is pervasive within our current society. 7% of people share that they have suffered from chronic social anxiety, while over 18% have suffered from social anxiety at some point. Each person will have different triggers. People with social anxiety often avoid situations that have the potential to cause embarrassment. However, by understanding triggers, and by learning techniques to cope with these triggers, quality of life can be improved for people suffering from social anxiety.
Seek treatment now
If you need help discovering how you can benefit from changing your belief system to effect positive life changes, contact Nelumbo Consultancy today. We provide counseling and therapy services to individuals, couples, and families, and our aim is to equip people with the tools they need to live their very best life. Our experienced psychologists and therapists are here to help you through challenging times, and build you up to the person you want to be. Call us at 074 8180 9129 to learn more about which services are right for you.