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  • jcorbett95

How to Overcome Social Anxiety

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

Have you ever felt so nervous about going to a party, or meeting new people that it hurts? Or perhaps you don't know how to start a conversation? Okay, so maybe this isn't the most serious problem with your life. But it's annoying, and sucks when you have to do it because you have no other choice. You'd rather be at home doing something else.

Overcome Social Anxiety

If you experience social anxiety and are looking for help, know that you’re not alone and I can help. I want you to know that your feelings of depression and anxiety are real, and whatever anyone else says, I believe you. I can empathize with how difficult it might be to face those feelings when you are already trying hard not to break down.

What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety is an indication of distress or impairment in social situations. It may be a disorder if a person with social anxiety disorder has frequent anxiety, panic or significant discomfort in social situations that causes them to want to avoid these situations or enter them with distress.

There are several kinds of social anxiety. One involves avoiding or being uncomfortable with social situations — either big or small groups of people you might not know well, whether in public or private. Another type of social anxiety involves difficulty speaking in front of others.

Here are a few other ways to overcome over social anxiety.

Practice public speaking

It is a good idea for those who have mild-to-moderate social anxiety disorder to practice public speaking by joining a group, which is specifically for practicing public speaking and rehearsing.

Try cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which involves making changes to the way you think and feel about a situation, can help you modify your behavior. For example, if someone has social anxiety and is always expecting the worst outcome, a therapist will help them learn to challenge their expectations and adopt more positive self-talk.

Gradually introduce yourself to anxiety-inducing situations

I recommend a technique called “situational exposure,” where you identify the situations that make you anxious and then work your way up from easier to more difficult scenarios while practicing relaxation techniques so you can tolerate anxiety. For example, if you have a fear of large groups, and you’ve been mostly avoiding group activities, start by going out with a friend one on one. Then work your way up to going out with a small group of friends. Repeat as needed until you feel more comfortable before attempting to go to a restaurant, bar or party where there would be more people. You can also work on situational exposure with the support of a therapist; like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy is something that a trained psychologist can provide.

Ask your support system for a helping hand

It might be embarrassing or humbling to tell people in your life that you’re anxious in social situations and might need help. But letting a friend or loved one know you might need some extra support can be a major boost. Many times, people are going to feel more comfortable if they’re in a social situation with somebody that they’re close to. Especially if somebody has been fairly isolated in recent times, it can be helpful at first to have a buddy when you go back into a social situation.

Check in with yourself

When you're out in public and start to feel anxious, it's easy to spiral and become fixated on everything that appears to be going wrong, even if you're the only one who feels that way. In the moment, you need to focus outside of yourself and remind yourself, 'This is probably anxiety. I can't read their mind. I do not know what they're actually thinking of me.' This is easier said than done, of course, so try a technique called "five senses" that can help you regain perspective and stay in the moment.

Do a check-in with yourself of all of your five senses to get yourself more externally focused. Distract yourself from unpleasant internal sensations and negative thoughts. “Then you can try to refocus on: ‘What are they actually saying to me? What else is going on right now? What can I see? What can I hear? What can I feel?’”

Keep a positive attitude, and be nice to yourself

It's perfectly normal if your social anxiety isn't going away as fast as you'd like. You may need to spend more time practicing other social encounters before you're up for the one you're stuck on, or you may need to work more on relaxation techniques and distraction techniques so you can tolerate that situation next time. After the fact, analyze what triggered a reaction, whether it was a panic attack or something else. Try to break down: 'How can I think about that differently?' or 'How can I change the situation next time?' Let's say you go to a concert and start having a panic attack because you're closed-in by many people. Maybe next time, sit in the back or on an aisle, or stay somewhere where you feel like there's an exit route if you become anxious.

Other people are typically more focused on themselves than they are on you. They’re probably not scrutinizing your behavior in social situations because they’re too busy thinking about what they want to say or do next. Your anxiety usually magnifies the negative and minimizes the positive — so the things you worry about most may not be particularly noticeable to others.

When to worry about physical symptoms of anxiety

Social anxiety disorder can cause physical symptoms, like blushing, sweating and a subjective sensation of feeling suddenly cold or warm. You might also have physical tension, which could cause aches and pains like a stomachache. Panic symptoms are your heart beating fast, shortness of breath, a subjective feeling of losing control or a fear of sudden, impending doom. People with social anxiety will typically experience some of these symptoms at a lower threshold as well.

It can be hard to tell whether pain symptoms are caused by anxiety or a more serious medical condition. If the pain goes away quickly after the anxiety-provoking situation has stopped, and if you have a subjective sense of knowing that you are currently afraid of something, then it’s more likely what you are feeling is anxiety. But if you’re in doubt about what’s causing your symptoms, you should definitely talk to a doctor about it and get advice on specific signs to look out for and what your risk factors are.

It is especially important for people with heart conditions to seek medical care for any chest pain or shortness of breath. If you have cardiac conditions and anxiety, talk to your doctor about how to differentiate between these two symptoms.

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