Few struggles are as frustrating as social anxiety. You need good social skills to be successful in your relationships, career and everyday life, after all.
Intellectually, you realize there’s no need to be alarmed in social settings. But your body and mind tell you a completely different story. And that what’s so aggravating about it all.
Some common social anxiety symptoms you may experience include:
- Anticipating the worst-possible outcome from your social encounters
- Physical reactions such as a shaky voice, blushing, trembling or sweating
- Fear you could be judged by others
- Worry about embarrassing yourself in a social setting
You may experience occasional anxiety in social settings or it could be more tied to performance anxiety before you do public speaking, a sports event or perform musically. If you’ve regularly experienced this anxiety for more than six months, you could be dealing with social anxiety disorder.
Some wonder if anything can be done to improve their social anxiety. A number of social anxiety treatment steps have been found effective. Here are a few key ways to keep social anxiety from holding you back.
Realize Social Anxiety Can Be More than Mere Shyness
Have you tried to explain your troubling social anxiety symptoms to friends or family? If so, you may have heard something like, “You’re just shy. You’ll get over it.” Especially if you lean more closely to a social anxiety disorder than mere shyness, this advice probably wasn’t that helpful.
What was likely meant to be encouraging may have left you discouraged (and possibly even feeling hopeless).
The National Institute of Mental Health well understands there needs to be a clear distinction between shyness and social anxiety disorder. It published a brochure entitled, “Social Anxiety Disorder: More Than Just Shyness.” Here’s a little excerpt:
“Social anxiety disorder usually starts during youth in people who are extremely shy. Social anxiety disorder is not uncommon; research suggests that about 7 percent of Americans are affected.”
Being able to recognize that you’re dealing with more than mere shyness will help your situation. Regardless of what well-meaning people who haven’t experienced ongoing social anxiety say, you’ll know what’s really going on. And once you’re aware of the specific nature of your problem, you’ll better understand how to overcome social anxiety.
Shyness is something you’re often able to handle although it’s uncomfortable. A social anxiety disorder, on the other hand, can feel like an unscalable wall so you may be tempted to avoid the “wall” altogether. And avoiding social settings is exactly what you don’t want to do.
Work at Changing the Way You Think About Social Interactions
Explore why it is you become so anxious in social settings. Is it the fear of embarrassing yourself or concern about what others may think of you?
Most individuals struggling with social anxiety realize the stress reaction they feel is overkill given the situation. Work through what worries you and replace the script running through your mind with something better. This is something you can start practicing on your own through journaling or with a close friend.
You also may want to consider working through your social anxiety struggles with a therapist. Social anxiety is a common concern and a well-trained counselor will be able to help.
One common counseling approach includes cognitive behavioral therapy for social anxiety. You’ll be able to work with your therapist to recognize irrational beliefs that lend to your social anxiety. After that, you’ll find more realistic thought processes to have in social settings. Over time, you can learn to regularly practice these more realistic thought patterns.
Your healthier thought processes about social interactions will lead to more positive social experiences. In turn, those positive social experiences will only increase your confidence and minimize your anxiety leading up to and during social interactions. That means you’ll feel way more comfortable interacting socially and greatly improve your quality of life in the process!
Conquer Your Fears by Choosing Not to Avoid Social Interactions
The danger of social anxiety is that you stop living your life to the fullest. Living a fulfilled life involves interaction with other people. For that reason, resolve not to let your social anxiety keep you from meaningful dialogue with others.
Let’s be clear about something. This isn’t saying you simply walk into the most stressful situations without working through your struggles beforehand. And we’re certainly not saying, “Just suck it up and give it your best shot.”
Rather, you work through the mental triggers of your social anxiety, preferably with your therapist, and then allow yourself to keep improving in real time. Although the comfort of social avoidance may feel good at the moment, you’ll miss out on your fullest potential if you let it have the last word.
Learn How to Overcome Social Anxiety Through Counseling
You don’t need to silently suffer with your social anxiety. The OC Relationship Center is skilled at helping people with even the most crippling social anxiety.