Social anxiety, also sometimes known as social phobia, is a very common problem that is faced by millions of people around the world. In fact, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates that as many as 15 million U.S. adults experience social anxiety – a number which seems to be increasing thanks to the pressures of modern life.
Social anxiety is described as being an intense, overwhelming fear of being judged or rejected by others in a social context. Social anxiety usually begins during the teenage years, although it is possible to develop it at other stages of your life. Some people will find that their social anxiety improves as they get older. However, many others will find that unless they seek help and support, their condition will not get any better. In fact, it may even get worse. As a result of social anxiety, patients can find it difficult or impossible to engage in social situations and may withdraw from relationships and friendships. This can lead to them becoming isolated and this can have a significant impact on their quality of life.
It isn’t necessarily always easy to tell if someone has social anxiety. However, there are some common signs, which include the following:
Worrying about everyday activities such as starting conversations, meeting new people, making small talk, going shopping, or speaking to someone on the phone.
Being nervous that you are going to do something embarrassing such as blushing, sweating, or stuttering.
Worrying about being involved in social activities such as eating with the company or attending conferences or parties.
Feeling that people are watching you and judging you, which can make some everyday activities difficult or impossible.
Being fearful of criticism.
Avoiding making eye contact with others.
Experiencing physical symptoms such as sweating palms, trembling, feeling nauseous, or having a racing heartbeat.
Panic attacks when you are forced into social situations.
Some people choose to take medications to help them to cope with social anxiety, but the effects that these have is limited and will cease as soon as you stop taking them. Therapy, often combined with medications, is a valuable part of any treatment plan for social anxiety.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT for short is considered the most effective treatment for social anxiety. This type of talking therapy can help you to rationalize and overcome your problems by modifying the way that you think and behave. This is achieved by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable parts and your therapist will work with you, showing you to change these negative patterns to improve the way that you feel. Unlike many other therapies, CBT focuses on current issues rather than historical ones.
Other ways that your therapist can help you to learn to cope with your social anxiety can include the following:
Avoiding unhealthy coping strategies, which can actually lead to physiological symptoms that can worsen your anxiety.
Learning to understand why social situations stress you out and what you can do to avoid certain triggers.
Group therapy may sound counter-productive but realizing that you are not alone can actually be hugely beneficial and is often the first step to overcoming your anxiety.
Groups also give you a way to practice being in a social situation, but in a controlled and safe space where you won’t be judged.
If you are suffering from social anxiety and would like help to overcome the limitation it is placing on your life, don’t hesitate to speak to our experienced team in San Diego who will be delighted to schedule you an appointment to discuss your concerns.