Dealing with Social Anxiety
Do you fear that you will be judged by others in social situations? Do your fears cause you to avoid groups of people or group events because you think you might embarrass yourself? Do these fears sometimes overwhelm you? If you answered yes to these questions, you may have a condition called social anxiety disorder.
At its core, social anxiety (aka: social phobia) is all about a fear of being embarrassed or judged by others in small or large groups. These feelings can seemingly crop up without provocation and can strike at the most inopportune times; such as family events, concerts or even walking on a city street. Other examples include crowded shopping malls, nightclubs and birthday parties.
The good news is that social anxiety is treatable. Common treatment approaches include psychotherapy, meditation and in some cases, prescription medications. By working closely with your medical doctor and counseling professional, you can move through your fears and move on to a place of greater happiness.
What follows are five tips for coping with social anxiety. Consider employing these are part of a comprehensive approach to anxiety management. Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!
1. Know What You are Getting Into
A good rule for going into a social situation is to know what exactly you need to be prepared for at an event. This is not always possible, as gatherings tend to pop up unexpectedly, but you can still look ahead to that big party next month that you are required to attend. Access the situation at hand, find an estimate on the number of guests invited and attending, know the setting, and find ways to prepare for the evening. That way, you are able to go into a social event with previous knowledge of what to expect, giving you at least a little bit of peace on what is about to happen.
2. Step Back from the Situation As Needed
If you find yourself in a situation where it is hard to breathe, give yourself permission to step away for a moment. Do not try to tough it out; this will only make matters worse. A little bit of alone time and some fresh air can do wonders for the brain and for your anxiety disorder. You can avoid being flustered and feeling stressed by simply making time for yourself while at the event.
3. Keep a Journal
Journaling helps with many things, but one of the tremendous attributes of it is being able to ease your social anxiety. When you journal, you are able to write down everything that you feel and anything that concerns you. This can be done on a daily basis, an occasional basis, or even just right before an event to relieve your worries onto a piece of paper. The satisfaction of getting out your feelings helps to take away those thoughts from your mind, thus giving you more peace on the issue and preventing you from over thinking your anxiety.
4. Know Your Limits
Along with stepping back from the situation comes knowing your limits. Part of preparation for an event involves evaluating where your weak points are and working to overcome them. While at an event, be careful of your limits and know when you are overstepping your own boundaries. It is better to step away from the scene for a moment than to continue and walk away from the event disappointed in your actions.
5. Find a Therapist
One of the best ways to deal with social anxiety is to work with a therapist that is trained in helping people with this common anxiety disorder. Research suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective treatment approaches. Therapy can help you learn a variety of concrete approaches used to help reduce the symptoms and in many cases prevent the onset of a panic attack.
Social Anxiety Final Thoughts
The current research suggests that somewhere between 5 – 13% of the population will deal with social anxiety disorder at some point during their lifetime. Studies suggest that women tend to suffer more from social anxiety than men by a number of 3 to 1 however, it is believed that men underreport incidence of anxiety for cultural reasons. Social phobias are usually triggered by certain thoughts and events and can be traced back to adolescence or early adulthood. Social anxiety can also be related to past traumas.
One helpful book to consider is Overcoming Anxiety for Dummies by Laura Smith. Inside, you will lots of useful information about social anxiety with scores of practical tips for coping. This is a resource that many of the Chicago therapists here at 2nd Story Counseling share with clients and it has proven to be a powerful resource for clients.
If you would like to talk to one of our counselors about your anxiety, please give us a call at 773-528-1777 or send us a confidential note using our online contact form. Working closely with a therapist, you can learn to confront some of your fears and move to a calmer, less anxious place.