Social Anxiety 101
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a mental disorder characterized by intense fear of social interaction and scrutiny. It’s the most common type of anxiety disorder, affecting around 15 million adults in the United States. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to cope with social anxiety disorder. In this article, we’ll discuss five of the best coping strategies for social anxiety.
What is social anxiety?
It’s normal to feel anxious before an event, but people with social anxiety struggle with their fear of negative evaluation and negative social comparisons.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, social anxiety disorder causes intense fear of negative evaluation and scrutiny. It’s also common to experience a fear of blushing or being embarrassed, being the center of attention, or performing under scrutiny.
Social anxiety is distinct from other types of anxiety and from depression.
Anxiety and depression are different too. Normal anxiety is a temporary emotional response to a stressful event or situation. Depression is a persistent low mood that causes problems at work, school, or in relationships.
Social anxiety disorder causes intense fear of social interactions, scrutiny, and negative social comparisons.
Untreated, it’s usually a chronic condition. But it doesn’t have to be! Therapy can help.
High school or college students who struggle with social anxiety disorder may have an increased risk for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
What causes Social Anxiety
Why do people get social anxiety? The exact cause of social anxiety disorder is unknown and is not the same for everyone.
A few things are known about it. It’s most commonly associated with stressful or traumatic life events. The social environment in high school or college may trigger social anxiety.
Studies have shown that the gene for serotonin and norepinephrine, along with the gene for the opioid receptor, may be linked to social anxiety.
Researchers also believe that the hippocampus, a part of the brain that stores memories, is responsible for some people having a predisposition to developing social anxiety.
Social anxiety disorder is the most common type of anxiety disorder.
Is Social Anxiety Disorder Treatable?
Absolutely. Counseling and Psychotherapy with the right therapist can help you overcome and better manage your symptoms
5 Coping Strategies to Get Through It.
When dealing with social anxiety disorder, the trick is to learn how to modify your behavior and your environment. Here are five of the best coping strategies for social anxiety.
1. Plan Ahead
The first step to dealing with social anxiety is to figure out how to make it easier to navigate social interactions in the first place. This can involve planning for social events and talking to friends and family about your fears to develop strategies that will help you feel more comfortable.
2. Take Breaks
When planning to attend a social event or other social situation, plan to take some breaks while in the situation. If at a house party, plan to take a break, go outside, go to the restroom to wash your hands, fix your makeup, etc. Building in planned breaks helps you feel more in control of the situation, and provides opportunities to collect yourself and return to the social situation.
3. Set Limits
If you’re feeling anxious about a social situation, plan to arrive a little early. Decide in advance a time to leave. If you are going with a friend or relative, agree to a time you will check in with each other –maybe at the 1 or 2 hour mark. If you are feeling okay, then you will stay longer, but if you are feeling overly anxious, then it may be time to leave, or take a break and go outside if possible.
4. Envision Success
Imagine yourself in a social situation–imagine as many details about the situation as you can. (whether it is a real upcoming event or just one you are imagining). Use your imagination to picture yourself feeling relaxed and comfortable. As you are imagining this, inhale, tense your hands into fists and hold it, then as you exhale, let the tension go from your hands and body.
5. Become Aware Of Your Self talk
Most people are unaware of their self talk. Try to be aware of your thoughts and feelings. Notice, without judgement, if your self talk is negative. Make an effort to challenge your negative thinking.
You Can Feel Better
It will take time. Therapy can help you set realistic goals, keep you on track as you work towards them, and plan for social events and situations that are particularly troubling for you.
Schedule an Appointment
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To read about our therapists: Our Therapists
For more info on Social Anxiety see this Mayo Clinic article: Social Anxiety