Social Anxiety

I have been shy since I was a child, the one who is the quietest and often rewarded to be so. Until I started to notice that entering the classroom full of students sunk my heart, talking to seniors in college made me fumble, the whole idea of going out with my friend group became the toughest decision to make. I feel all the eyes are on me, is my hair okay? Am I looking fine? Did I say something stupid? Was that remark about me? Yes, definitely me. I can say something smarter, but no here I am, silent again with sweating palms, nervous eyes and wishing to disappear.

AM I AN INTROVERT OR SOCIALLY ANXIOUS?

Introverts have a certain personality trait wherein they are inclined inwards naturally. They tend to focus more on their inner feelings and thoughts rather than outer stimulations. Introverts lose energy by indulging in external activities and gain energy from being alone. They recharge by being alone. Social situations can be draining for them.

Social anxiety is the fear of social situations that involve interaction with other people. People with social anxiety are many times seen by others as being shy, quiet, withdrawn, inhibited, unfriendly, nervous, aloof, and disinterested. People with social anxiety want to make friends, be a part of groups, and be involved and engaged in social gatherings but it is anxiety that holds them back. It often starts in adolescence and is centred around a fear of judgment by other people in comparatively small groups (as opposed to crowds), usually leading to avoidance of social situations.

It is equally common in men and women. It may manifest in anxiety while eating in public, public speaking, interaction with the opposite sex or involving almost all social situations outside the family circle. A fear of vomiting in public may be present. Direct eye-to-eye confrontation may be particularly stressful for some people.

Causes

  • Low Self Esteem

    Having insecurities and low self confidence is manifested in anxiety while giving a presentation, stage fear, talking to people of opposite sex, apprehensions in social gatherings

  • Fear of Criticism

    People with social anxiety have a persistent, intense, and chronic apprehension of being watched and judged by others and of being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions.

  • Biological

    Amygdala a structure in the brain that controls fear response and feelings or thoughts of anxiety may serve as a factor in social anxiety.

  • Observational Learning

    An individual might develop anxiety by learning the behavior of one of their parents who displays anxiety in social situations

  • Parenting

    Children who have been raised in controlling or overprotective environments are more prone to developing social anxiety

  • Bullying

    Negative, traumatic experiences like bullying often leads to a perception that others might have wrong intentions of causing harm and threatening their physical and emotional safety which leads to avoidance of people as the victim starts generalizing that others might make comments, mock them.

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Symptoms of Social Anxiety

Physical Symptoms Psychological Symptoms
Blushing Worrying days before social event
Hand tremors Missing out classes/work
Nausea Negative, Irrational thoughts
Sweating Fear of embarrassing yourself
Stammering  
Dizziness  
Rapid heartbeat  
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How Counseling Helps

  • Understanding Triggers

    Developing insight into how certain experiences and events triggered anxiety and its impact on the individual’s physical health, social relationships and work.

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy

    It is a form of therapy that focuses on eliminating unhealthy and unproductive thoughts patterns and behaviors that help to maintain the anxiety. For example, avoidance of a feared object or situation prevents a person from learning that it is harmless.

  • Graded exposure

    A hierarchy of anxiety provoking situations is listed out and then exposing the individual to those situations one by one starting with least anxiety producing situation. For example- A person who avoids social situations. Graded exposure would be - Thinking of going to the party, attending an event with a small group of people, going to a party, start a conversation with an unfamiliar person/opposite gender.

  • Relaxation techniques

    Introducing Deep Breathing techniques and Progressive Muscle Relaxation to reduce the physiological symptoms of anxiety in social situations.

  • Grounding techniques

    In case of social situations, when a person starts becoming anxious, they tend to focus on the physical symptoms they are experiencing i.e internal focus which further adds to their anxiety. Grounding techniques aim to change the focus to external events to reduce physiological distress.

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Counseling Outcome

  • Healthy management/coping of anxiety
  • Rational thought and behaviour patterns
  • Better understanding of self and the response pattern
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Complications

In extreme cases, social anxiety can evolve into panic attacks in social situations and complete isolation. This would require medication along with therapy to relieve physical symptoms of anxiety.

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