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Many people experience anxiety in some social situations. However, for some people, it causes significant emotional distress. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “An estimated 12.1% of U.S. adults experience social anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.” The dedicated mental health professionals at Alter Wellness Care use evidence-based therapies to treat social anxiety and underlying issues. You can learn to overcome fear and thrive using the tools you learn during treatment.
What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?
The previously mentioned NIMH article describes social anxiety as “persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others.”
Individuals with social anxiety are afraid of acting in a way that others may perceive as:
- Out of character
- Socially unacceptable
According to the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, “Stressful social events in early life (for example, being bullied, familial abuse, public embarrassment or one’s mind going blank during a public performance) are commonly reported by people with social anxiety disorder.” Some people isolate themselves to avoid emotional distress and potential social embarrassment. The effects of isolation can cause significant mental health problems and affect general well-being. You can overcome anxiety by learning to identify triggers. The underlying cause of the disorder often revolves around trauma, abandonment, and/or fear of rejection.
Common Signs of Social Anxiety Disorder
It is common to feel nervous during certain situations like public speaking. However, a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder means that you have symptoms that regularly interfere with your day-to-day life.
The most common signs of social anxiety include:
- Physical symptoms like blushing, shakiness, heart palpitations, nausea, sweating, and muscle weakness
- Feelings of doom, helplessness, or extreme fear
- Depressive symptoms, including lack of motivation, irrational sadness, and a sense of hopelessness
- Difficulty or inability to make eye contact with others
- Social isolation
- Intrusive thoughts about past embarrassing or frightening social interactions
Situations that often trigger symptoms of social anxiety include feeling like the center of attention, meeting new people, or being teased. Even good-natured joking can cause extreme emotional distress for someone with social anxiety.
Combatting Misinformation About Social Anxiety Disorder
Most people who struggle with social anxiety will encounter stigmas when speaking with friends, family, or others in public settings. The general public often misunderstands clinical anxiety, which can worsen symptoms by increasing fear of judgment or embarrassment.
Misconceptions and misinformation lead to the development of these stigmas, including the following:
- Individuals with social anxiety can choose to “get over it”
- Social anxiety is the same as being shy or nervous
- People with social anxiety want attention
- Treatment doesn’t work for people with social anxiety
- People with social anxiety need to “get used” to it
- Some people are just born anxious
All of these are myths. If anyone tries to use them to describe your condition, you have an opportunity to educate them about the realities of mental health disorders like social anxiety.
Managing Social Anxiety in Public Settings
Entering public spaces when you have severe social anxiety can feel overwhelming. Treatment and therapy give you the confidence to face that fear and manage the symptoms that might interfere with necessary tasks.
Most people with social anxiety struggle with the following:
- Shopping for necessities like food or clothes
- Going to after-work events with coworkers
- Attending family events like weddings and reunions
- Meeting strangers
- Speaking at work meetings
How you manage your anxiety in public settings will depend on the context. Mindfulness exercises, such as grounding techniques and deep breathing, can decrease your body’s automatic reaction to stress and lower your anxiety.
Self-Care and Other Coping Techniques
Part of recovery involves creating new healthy routines and thought patterns. The coping techniques you learn in therapy can help you manage persistent anxiety symptoms. Regular self-care is another excellent way to decrease overall stress. You can incorporate enjoyable activities into your daily routines and use coping skills to enhance the positive effects of self-care.
Some examples of self-care include:
- Spending time meditating or quietly relaxing
- Prioritizing your mental health
- Setting clear boundaries with others
- Dedicating time each day to doing something you enjoy
- Visiting or chatting with loved ones
- Spending time with your pet
- Listing positive experiences each day
Focusing on daily self-care makes it easier to practice mindfulness-based coping techniques and stress-reduction exercises. The dedicated care team at Alter Wellness Care can help you increase your coping skills, including self-care.
Embrace New Experiences to Thrive and Grow
Trying new activities can help you feel more confident in your ability to overcome challenges in everyday life. You can choose to take back control by exposing yourself to activities that make you feel vulnerable. Uncertainty does not have to lead to fear or anxiety. Instead, you can use it to improve your self-confidence and self-efficacy by setting achievable goals. You can continue to grow despite your diagnosis of social anxiety. With the development of essential coping skills, you will have the tools you need to thrive.
Anyone diagnosed with social anxiety disorder understands how overwhelming it can feel to experience symptoms while in public. Many people avoid social situations to avoid feeling intense fear, anxiety, or embarrassment. However, if you struggle with social anxiety, you can thrive and continue to grow despite your diagnosis. Facing your fears using evidence-based treatments can help you take back control of your life. Social anxiety can be successfully treated and controlled using a variety of methods. Alter Wellness Care provides psychotherapy and other therapeutic tools to help clients learn essential coping skills and improve self-confidence. Our dedicated mental health professionals will ensure you have the support you need to decrease anxiety. Learn more by calling us today at (866) 311-3510.