Social Anxiety – Tis the Season
During this time of year, we are inundated with images of people celebrating the holiday season, full of warm smiles, laughter, family and friends. But, for those suffering with social anxiety disorder, this can be an especially difficult time. People who suffer from social anxiety may experience dread and actually avoid these social situations completely.
While many people feel nervous about meeting new people or attending parties sometimes, if you find yourself feeling consistently anxious, self-conscious, or even overwhelmed by the prospect of ordinary social situations–even sometimes avoiding them altogether– you may be suffering from social anxiety disorder.
The idea of meeting and socializing with people you don’t know and trying to carry on a light conversation may cause a sense of fear or panic; you may find your heart racing, and experiencing sweating, confusion, or other anxiety symptoms. You may have tried to force yourself to socialize and found it to be a difficult experience with effects that continue on, even when the party is over. For many these feelings of anxiety are carried over into their everyday lives and can also affect work, school, or other important activities.
Social Anxiety Approaches
Many have found relief through psychotherapy and have found it to be helpful in living a more fulfilling life with their social anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy– a type of therapy that works to correct long-standing patterns of negative thoughts and feelings, and the subsequent behaviors they cause– helps those with social anxiety disorder to confront their fears and apply techniques that reduce or eliminate these debilitating symptoms.
While cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most researched types of intervention, other forms of therapy may also help, and some have found prescription medication, especially when accompanied by therapy, to be helpful.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to try to avoid social isolation, as doing so reinforces the social anxiety. Try to choose smaller events that cause you the least amount of anxiety, perhaps with family and friends with whom you are more comfortable. Let someone who you trust know how difficult the situation may be for you, and ask for their support, as this may make it less stressful. It is important to be mindful of your use of alcohol, as there can be serious consequences to overuse in an attempt to self-medicate your symptoms.
It is to especially important to remember to engage in the same behaviors that lead to overall well-being the rest of the year; get plenty of rest and allow yourself time to relax, eat healthy foods, get regular exercise, and be mindful of your caffeine intake. These will help you manage your symptoms of social anxiety, but it is important to understand that left untreated, social anxiety disorder tends to become more of an issue over time.
There is no shame in seeking the help you need and social anxiety, during the holidays and all the rest of the time, can get better.