You’re invited to a party and it sounds like fun so you say yes. Then days before the party you begin to have second thoughts about going. All the “what-if’s” start popping up in your mind triggering fear and self-doubt. ‘What-if I freeze if someone asks me a question?’ Or worse, ‘what-if I say something stupid and embarrass myself.’
What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
If you suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) you're not alone. Social anxiety disorder affects over 19 million people across America. It is the third most common mental health disorder in America, and the most common anxiety disorder. SAD usually starts in adolescence or early adulthood. Women and men are equally likely to develop a social anxiety disorder. And, it often co-occurs with other mental health disorders, like depression, OCD, or other anxiety disorders.
If you have Social Anxiety, you may have strong fears and worry about being humiliated or embarrassing yourself in social situations. You may also have a fear of people judging you. Then those fear thoughts can trigger physical symptoms like sweating, trembling, or even nausea. SAD can prevent you from having normal interactions with people, build friendships, or have a romantic relationship. SAD can also make it hard for you to function in your daily life, at work, or school. Eventually, it can feel safer to withdraw and stay home than risk your fears coming true.
You may suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder if you exhibit the following symptoms:
Anxiety about being with other people
Difficulty talking normally to others
Self-consciousness in front of other people and feelings of embarrassment
Fear that other people will judge them
Worry for days or weeks before a public event
Avoidance of public places
Difficulty making and keeping friends
Blushing, sweating, or trembling around other people
Feeling nauseous around other people
Have other physical symptoms, such as confusion, arrhythmia, diarrhea, muscle tension, and upset stomach
2 Common Cycles of Social Anxiety Disorder
There are two patterns that create and perpetuate a common cycle of SAD. If we stay with the example above about going to a party, the fear and worry thoughts of embarrassing yourself or being judged cause your heart to beat faster, you get more and more nervous and your stomach starts to hurt. So, you decide to call your friend and make an excuse for why you can’t go. When you hang up the phone, you feel calmer. That sense of calm reinforces the idea that avoiding going to parties is a good thing.
The second pattern happens if you decide to go to the party. When you get there your internal fear dialogue starts up. You begin to worry and sweat and stand in a corner of the room staring at your phone so you don’t draw attention to yourself. When you get home, you think about the terrible time you had at the party. This then reinforces the belief that you can never have a good time at parties.
Anxiety Therapy Boulder by Darleen Gegich MA LPC
3 Ways to Manage your Social Anxiety
There is hope you can take charge of your social anxiety and enjoy your daily life more. Here are a few ways to begin:
1. Find ways to lift your mood before a social event. Do something that you naturally enjoy that can give you a dose of endorphins that will make you feel good. That may be listening to upbeat music, playing a video game, or watching a comedy show on TV.
2. Challenge your negative thoughts about the event. For example, if you are having the thought 'people are not talking to me because they can see I don’t belong here' you can change that to 'people are talking to other people they already know. It’s not personal'.
3. Get support from a therapist with experience in effective anxiety treatment. You can learn how to identify distorted beliefs and replace them with healthy ones. You can also learn ways to create more calm in your body by using mindfulness techniques. Yoga is also a good practice to reduce anxiety.
You don’t have to suffer alone. Learning about the neuroscience behind Social Anxiety Disorder and the techniques to reduce it, you can feel more empowered to engage with other people and enjoy daily life more. Read more about Anxiety Therapy here,
Reach out today to find out what options are available to you. Together we can make changes that will help you feel safe and empowered to socialize with increased comfort.
1. Understanding the Facts: Social Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder