Social Anxiety is used to describe feelings of anxiety and fear that occur in response to social situations. Even the most confident of people can get a little anxious before a presentation, or when they are meeting new people, but in social anxiety this distress can be so overwhelming that they may frequently try to avoid social situations.
There are several psychological and physiological manifestations of social anxiety. When we are anxious we may experience intense fear, racing heart, turning red or blushing, dry throat and mouth, trembling, swallowing with difficulty, muscle twitches, shaky hands, excessive sweating, and eye contact problems. .
Psychological manifestations could be worrying intensely days and weeks before a social situation, worrying that people will notice us nervous and anxious, needing alcohol/drugs to face social situations, avoiding social gathering etc. .
Why causes Social Anxiety?
To truly understand why social anxiety occurs, we have to ask ourselves questions deeper than the surface. Not just “why are we afraid of social situations” but “what are our fundamental assumptions that could be responsible for it.” Some of the assumptions could be:
- I am not perfect.
- Nobody likes me.
- I might perform bad.
- If I perform bad, others would judge me.
- If they judge me, they are probably right.
- Others are better.
Other that the assumptions above, social anxiety is caused by a combination of environmental factors and genetics. Bad experiences may also contribute to formation of this anxiety, including bullying, family conflict and sexual abuse. Fundamentally, others’ opinions don’t actually affect us. The only time we get affected is when we believe their words to be true. And when we believe, their opinions worsen our idea of self.
How to fight Social Anxiety?
- Know the symptoms.
First step towards fighting social anxiety is to know how it feels and looks. Excessive worrying about social situations, avoiding social gatherings etc. are some common thoughts of a socially anxious individual.Observe what social anxiety does to your body. Sweating, palpitation, dry mouth, blushing, nausea etc. are some of its physical symptoms.
- Recognize the trigger.
Knowing exactly what causes your anxiety is a must. Keeping a journal can help pinpoint the common experiences.
- Realize Anxiety isn’t real.
Social anxiety feeds on thoughts that exaggerate danger or negative outcome of an event. These are just anticipations, not reality.
- Relaxation techniques.
To deal with the uncomfortable feeling, learn ways to relax yourself. Meditation, deep breathing and exercises like yoga can help you calm your nerve.
- Use/Develop social skills.
Skills like listening actively, asking questions and communicating assertively can bring in a lot of comfort and confidence.
- Putting yourself out there.
Gradual exposure to social situations work wonders. Expose yourself to smaller audience and slowly increase the number once you feel comfortable and ready.
- Seek help.
In case of a condition when self-help seems unsuccessful, reach out for professional help. Seeking help is a sign of strength.