According to the National Institute of Mental Health, up to 40 million American adults suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder each year. Social anxiety can have a crippling effect on your day-to-day life, as you fear engaging with others in social environments. This can have disastrous effects on your career and on almost every other aspect of your life, from social activities to doing your grocery shopping. Social anxiety can control your life to the extent that you are afraid to leave the house. For some it can be extremely debilitating.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is a phobia, and like any other phobia, it is driven by fear. Many people will have a slight fear of new social interactions; nobody wants to appear foolish or have others not like them. If you suffer from social anxiety, this fear will be much more intense than the average person’s, so much so, that you will do almost anything to avoid any social interaction. It can affect people physically, mentally and behaviourally. Physical signs of social anxiety can include profuse sweating and blushing. Your thoughts in social interactions will be focused on the other person. You will be sensitive to any signs of disapproval coming from them, and be prone to misinterpreting neutral behaviour as judging behaviours.You may feel overwhelmed by self-consciousness and anxiety. As a result of these feelings and thoughts you will more than likely exhibit awkward behaviour because you are so caught up in imagining what other people are thinking about you. These three factors become interwoven and create a cycle of phobia.
If you find your social anxiety is stopping you from enjoying your life to the fullest, you can seek the help of your family doctor. They can find out whether your anxiety has a physical cause or a mental cause. They may refer you to a mental health professional such as a clinical psychologist or a counsellor. A clinical psychologist will help diagnose you using a psychological interview and assessment tools in order to assess the severity of your anxiety. A counsellor will discuss your problems with you in an attempt to better understand them. Both of these professionals are qualified to treat social anxiety. They may use a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness and relaxation techniques. These treatments have been found to be very effective in helping people deal with their social anxiety.
Your mental health professional may give you homework assignments to help you gain mastery over your anxiety. These can include stress management techniques which you can use whenever you feel your anxiety threatening to overwhelm you. A lot of people with anxiety disorders also find joining support groups to be a great help in coping with their anxiety. By making small changes and taking each day as it comes, social anxiety can be overcome and you will be able to live your life in the way you have always wanted.