What is Social Anxiety and How Can You Beat It?

Social anxiety, or social phobia, is an intense fear of being judged or rejected in a group setting. This feeling, or perception, can be overwhelming. It can even cause painful physical and emotional reactions. Social anxiety can be paralyzing for some.

Symptoms can include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Tunnel vision
  • Profuse sweating
  • Stomach upset
  • And more

These symptoms are real. Sadly, this can cause people to avoid social contact completely. Isolation will alleviate the symptoms. But this makes daily living very difficult.

Humans are social creatures. Thriving in a community and engaging in social interactions is part of our nature. Social anxiety limits these interactions. These restrictions affect many areas of our lives. This includes work life, social life and sometimes even routine tasks like grocery shopping.

Some anxiety is normal. Occasional anxiety serves as a warning sign for us. The key is to recognize how often and how intense the feelings are.

If you’ve wondered if you have social anxiety, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you have racing thoughts, worry, paranoia, or a sense of doom in public settings?
  2. Do you suffer from insomnia leading up to an event or social occasion?
  3. Before an upcoming event or meeting, do you excessively worry?
  4. Do you become hyper vigilant or obsessive in group settings?

Answering yes to these questions could mean that you are experiencing social anxiety.

If you feel you may be suffering from social anxiety, your doctor can help with a proper diagnosis.

The first step to feeling better is to see someone who can officially diagnose your anxiety. A physician will help you with a diagnosis and begin to make a plan for your care. There are many treatments available to help you. In some cases, medication can help alleviate some of your symptoms. Therapy can be beneficial also.

Social anxiety doesn’t have to hurt. It is possible to manage your symptoms and live your best life.

Identify your triggers.

One of the keys to managing social anxiety is symptom awareness. Discovering the triggers for anxiety can help you delay or even prevent it from happening. Learning how to assess yourself and make small changes can reduce the frequency and intensity of your anxiety.

Here are some tips on how to identify your triggers:

  1. Pay attention. There is likely a pattern to your anxiety. When you do begin to feel anxious? Is it a sound, smell, or other sense that triggers a reaction? When your hallmark symptoms begin, what is happening? The more you pay attention to what precedes your anxiety, the easier it is to make a plan to circumvent it.
  2. Ask for help. Those closest to you likely know you pretty well. They may see a pattern or know a trigger that sets you off. Ask those closest to you to share their thoughts with you.
  3. Experiment. Do you have the same reaction no matter what the social situation? Do you find it easier to be social in certain situations? Experiment with your social engagement and take note of how you feel and what might trigger any feelings.
  4. Make a plan. Once you have a handle on one or more of the triggers that make being social painful, practice a remedy that doesn’t include running away. Sure, it may make sense to remove yourself from a situation if it’s too much, but many times you can modify your situation to make it bearable and maybe even enjoyable.

Some tips on working through it.

Being social when you have the most energy- If you’re a morning person, try and avoid meetings or being in public later in the day. Schedule as many things that you can for earlier in the day or set aside time to rest prior to an afternoon or evening social event.

Be aware of personalities- If you have a hard time being around domineering people or loud and boisterous people, limit your exposure to these sorts of people.

Use the buddy system- Try to have a friend with you who can support you or help you calm down if things get out of hand. Having someone there can help defuse the anxiety and distract you from being triggered.

Learning what triggers your anxiety can help you manage it and reduce the frequency and intensity of your symptoms.

Being self-aware and having a plan are two ways to get ahead of your anxiety and reduce its impact on your life. With the combination of your treatment plan, you can regain control. You got this!

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