Are you or someone you love constantly afraid of being judged, misunderstood, or rejected by society? It could be just shyness, or it could be social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia. The best way to distinguish between the two is to find out more about them, so let’s find out more about social anxiety.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America identifies the fear of being judged, negatively perceived, or rejected in a social situation as the main feature of social anxiety. The American Psychological Association defines shyness as the tendency to feel tensed, worried, or awkward during social encounters. It would, therefore, not be far from the truth to say that social anxiety is an extreme form of shyness. Unfortunately, it affects more and more people, and not many of them seek help.
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Fast facts on Social Anxiety Disorder
- 15 million U.S. adults, namely 6.8% of the country’s population suffers from social anxiety disorder
- The disorder affects men and women alike
- The first symptoms appear around age 13
- 36% of those who suffer from social anxiety wait 10 years or more before seeking help
However, doctors warn that, left untreated, this condition can lead to complications. According to HealthLine, after long periods of anxiety, some people can no longer let go, and the constant state of tension weakens their immune system, predisposing them to all kinds of diseases. Moreover, anxiety is often linked to depression, which, in turn, affects one’s professional and personal life.
This makes it very important to recognize, accept, and treat the condition in its incipient stages. As you may already know, the best way to recognize a condition is by its symptoms, so let’s take a look at the main symptoms of social anxiety disorder:
Social Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
- Tendency to avoid social and performance situations
- Perception of social and performance situations as uncomfortable and distressing
- Panic attacks (racing heart, nausea, sweating, trembling, etc.)
- Tendency to avoid meeting new people
- Fear of public speaking and other appearances
- Poor self-esteem
- Preference for solitude and isolation
It is important to note that most people suffering from social anxiety are aware of their problem. They realize their fear is unjustified, but they simply cannot control it. If the condition is not too severe, it may be possible to overcome it only with adequate support from friends and family.
However, in many cases, a combination of cognitive and behavioral therapy and medication is necessary. While therapy and medication are better left to professionals, there are a few small measures anyone can take to fight social anxiety and help others as well. Let’s look at them in the following lines!
10 Easy Steps to Fight Social Anxiety
- Identifying fears – Social anxiety involves several different fears: of meeting new people, leaving the house, speaking in public, etc. The first step towards overcoming anxiety is to identify those fears, to know what triggers the anxiety.
- Setting up a fears hierarchy – Not all fears are alike: some are mild and easy to control, while others can cause severe panic attacks. It helps to know which ones are easier to put up with and which ones should be avoided at all cost.
- Preparing to face fears – Social anxiety is basically fear of the unknown (people, places, activities, etc.). Preparation can help eliminate the unknown factor, and, with it, some of the anxiety. Let’s say you have a job interview, and you are afraid of meeting the managers. By doing your research on who they are and what they like, you can get to know them, anticipate their reactions, and make sure they are positive. If you have to give a speech and you are afraid of public speaking, repeating the speech out loud may help.
- Actually facing small fears – Hiding is never a good solution, so the only remaining alternative is getting out there and facing those fears. To make it easier, it helps to start from the mildest fears and progress towards the most serious ones gradually.
- Choosing friends wisely – It always helps to have dedicated friends who do not judge you but are always there when you need them. These are the kind of friends that inspire confidence and make it easier to surpass obstacles, including anxiety.
- Identifying safety behaviors – Most people have certain words or gestures they say or do when anxious about something. Before eliminating them, it is important to identify them and assess their severity.
- Striving to eliminate safety behaviors – If you know you are likely to twitch an eye or babble when meeting someone for the first time, it helps to focus on avoiding the safety behavior. It will also help take your mind off your fear.
- Socializing online – When meeting people and talking to them in person is challenging, doing it online may help ease some of the pressure and help you build confidence. The trick is to never forget that the online environment has its dangers as well, and to take every conversation with a grain of salt.
- Socializing in real life – You’ve faced your fears, eliminated safety behaviors, and socialized online. You can do it in real life too. Take baby steps, but keep at it, otherwise, it will get difficult again.
- Rewards – They will help you remember that your efforts are not in vain and they’ll keep you motivated. They’ll help you associate social interaction with something positive, something you’ll want to repeat.
Are you ready to overcome your social anxiety? The steps above cannot replace medication or therapy, but they should help you reach your goal easier and find the strength and motivation you need. If you’re not the one suffering from social anxiety, but a friend or family member, guide them through the same steps described above. You can give them confidence and guide them to win over their fears.
While at it, do not forget to drop us a comment and let us know how it went. We would love to find out more about your experience and, why not, receive your suggestions.
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