It is common for a person to get nervous right before giving a speech in front of a large crowd, or going on a job interview. However, there are some people who suffer from social phobia or social anxiety that goes well beyond the normal feelings of shyness. The difference between having butterflies in your stomach and perhaps suffering from social anxiety disorder is quite obvious. If someone is so nervous to be embarrassed that they refrain from participating in certain activities, they are likely suffering from a social phobia. This can hinder a person from accomplishing a lot in life, which is why it is important to learn to push past the nerves.
What Does it Mean to Have Social Anxiety or a Social Phobia?
When a person has an overwhelming amount of fear about being in social settings because they feel judged by others, they are likely dealing with a social phobia. For many who suffer from this problem, being in social situations can be so scary that they become extremely anxious. This in turn causes some to avoid social settings at all costs. People who have social phobias essentially have a fear of how others perceive them and feel embarrassed an anxious in front of crowds. Some who have social fears are in most cases aware that they have this problem, but lack the know how to get past it.
Things That Trigger Social Phobias
You might be surprised to learn that social anxiety disorders and phobias are very common. There are lots of people who struggle with the fears of being rejected or embarrassed. The difference is that each person has different triggers for those fears. There are some who suffer from generalized social anxiety disorder, which means that they are fearful of social situations such as eating out, talking to new people, or attending events with lots of participants. However, the most common form of social phobia is the fear of speaking in public.
Signs You Could be Experiencing Social Anxiety
Now if you’re the type to get a bit nervous in social settings, this does not mean that you have a social phobia. It is also widely common for a person to be nervous and a bit anxious about certain atmospheres. However, if your fears are keeping you from carrying on with your daily routine, this is when it may be a problem.
Emotional Signs of Social Phobias
• Overly self-conscious and anxious when involved in social settings
• Worrying intensely for months before a social event is to take place
• Afraid of being viewed and judged by others
• Fears of embarrassment
Physical Signs of Social Phobias
• Difficulty breathing
• Extreme butterflies
• Shaking and trembling
• Increased heart rate
Behavioral Signs of Social Phobias
• Avoidance of social events
• Always needing someone around when you go new places
• Hiding or silence to avoid being noticed
• Use of substances or alcohol to ease nerves
“The moment of crisis had come, and I must face it. My old fears, my diffidence, my shyness, my hopeless sense of inferiority, must be conquered now and thrust aside. If I failed now I should fail forever.”
― Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca
Treating Your Social Anxiety Disorder: Change Your Thought Process
When you suffer from social anxiety it does not just come out of thin air. You generally have negative thoughts which trigger the anxiety. Often, those who suffer from social phobias think:
• They’re going to look crazy
• They’re going to embarrass themselves
• They won’t impress the crowd
• No one will like them or what they have to say
There are ways that you can challenge these thoughts on your own. The first thing you should do is identify your negative thoughts. When you identify them, you then want to question their validity. For instance, if you think someone is not going to like what you have to say, can you prove that without a reasonable doubt? By breaking the negative thought down and thinking logically, you can debunk the negative vibes which could help give a more positive outlook.
Treating Your Social Anxiety Disorder: Controlled Breathing
Whatever your social fears are, your body begins to go through changes as those thoughts enter your mind or the time nears for you to attend a social event. One of the most common things to change in the body is the way you breathe. The faster you’re breathing the more off balance your level of oxygen is in the body. This in turn results in more complications such as dizziness, increased heart rate, and tension in your muscles. By learning to breathe at a slower pace, you can stop some of the physical signs from occurring. Here is a great exercise to try:
• Sitting in a proper position you should place on hand over your chest and the other over your stomach.
• Slowly begin inhaling through your nose for about four seconds. Your stomach should be rising while your chest should barely be moving.
• Hold your breath for another two seconds.
• Then for the next six seconds you should exhale through your mouth slowly making sure to release most of the air.
Continuing this pattern before you participate in a social situation can make all the difference.
Treating Your Social Anxiety: Facing Your Fear
The best way to overcome something that you’re afraid of is to face it head on. The more you try to avoid it, the more you’re holding onto the phobia. It is also true that when you avoid social situations, you could be preventing yourself from experiencing a lot that life has to offer. Instead you should challenge yourself and your fears. This does not mean that you should go to the Yankee Stadium and sing the National Anthem, but it means start slow and work your way up. Start off going to a small social gathering of a few people and as you feel comfortable work your way up to larger crowds.e.
Treating Your Social Anxiety: Creating Positive Relationships
Another way that you can get over your social phobias is to participate in supportive social groups. Here is a list of ways you could begin turning negative interactions into positive ones:
• Take a class for social skills or public speaking. This will help you learn the skills to speak with others and feel comfortable.
• Work on connecting better with others. For some people communicating effectively is complex. By working at fixing your communication with those you do interact with, you can essentially learn to communicate better all around.
Treating Your Social Anxiety: Minor Lifestyle Changes
No lifestyle changes alone are going to heal your social phobias, but there are some changes that are necessary as you work on treating yourself. These changes listed below should improve your overall level of anxiety:
• Stop drinking caffeine – Caffeine products have stimulants which can increase your anxiety
• Drink alcohol in moderation – If you’re a social drinker as a way to keep your cool, you should know that alcohol increases the chances for an anxiety attack.
• Stop smoking – Nicotine is a very strong stimulant which also increases your anxiety levels.
• Get enough sleep – It is important that you get a good night’s rest. When you’re not sleeping well, you are prone to become more anxious.
What to Do When Self Treatment is Not Working?
Whether or not you’ll be able to help yourself through your social phobias and anxieties will depend upon the person. There are some people who may need more techniques or treatment options from a professional. If you’re still struggling with your social anxiety, it is a good idea to seek reputable professional help.
For a list of reputable therapists near you visit: www.therapistunlimited.com
Treatment Options for Treating Social Phobias
Many mental health professionals prefer to use the cognitive behavioral therapy method for treating those with social anxiety. The therapy option is based on the idea that your thoughts can affect how you feel and your feelings will determine how you act. Therefore, if they can get you to change your method of thinking, they can also cure the behavioral problem.
Other therapy options would include group therapy. Such therapies utilize hands on activities such as role playing, observation, and participant exercises that can help you prepare for the outside world. The objective is the more practice there is, the better you should be once you face your fear in reality.
Last but not least are medications. In some cases in order to relieve the anxiety symptoms, you will need to take medication. Medications are usually offered in combination with group or individual therapy.
Whatever you social fears are, if they’ve stopped you from doing things that are necessary, fun, or a part of life, it is time to get help. Start changing your mindset, controlling your breathing, and making small lifestyle changes to face your fears. If all else fails, seek help from a mental health professional so that you can learn to love the spotlight at all costs.