How do I get over my social anxiety?
While many people get nervous when they meet new people or have to give a presentation, social anxiety can be a different beast altogether. Those who struggle with social anxiety feel nervous in social settings and have debilitating panic in response to both small and large social interactions. These individuals can feel so uncomfortable that they would rather avoid the situation altogether than try to engage. Withdrawing from life can be lonely and seriously affect mental and emotional health. Social anxiety doesn’t have to take over your life. Here are a few things you can do to help manage social anxiety and get back to living.
What is social anxiety?
What’s the difference between being nervous about a social situation and having social anxiety? According to the Anxiety and Worry Workbook, there are three core elements to social anxiety. These include:
- Fear of negative evaluation.
- This fear can manifest as obsessive and intrusive thoughts surrounding upcoming and past social interactions. Before you step foot in a room, your mind tells you that others may think something is wrong with you.
- Heightened self-focus.
- Someone with social anxiety also fights to focus on anything but themselves in social situations. However, while focusing on being less awkward or being normal, the individual can come across as disconnected and disjointed. The individual focuses on their behavior and not on the actual conversations or social interactions in the present.
- Extensive avoidance.
- As a result of the mental and emotional energy required before, during, and after a social event, an individual with social anxiety may choose to avoid social interactions altogether. An example could be avoiding significant events in the lives of your loved ones, switching careers, or even avoiding relationships.
Remember, only a licensed professional can diagnose you or a loved one with social anxiety. If you feel these three criteria describe you and what you go through in social situations, consider speaking with a licensed professional about getting additional support beyond this blog.
Attack social anxiety head-on.
All types of anxiety, including social anxiety, feed off of avoidance. By removing ourselves from the situation, we believe we are saving ourselves the heartache of going through a stressful situation. The reality is avoidance only fuels more anxiety. By facing anxiety head-on, individuals often find the social experience is better than they thought. This positive interaction then becomes evidence of our success that helps counteract the destructive spiral in our minds.
You can be very strategic about how you approach anxiety-triggering situations. You can make a list of activities that make you nervous. These activities can be as small as ordering a coffee at Starbucks or as big as presenting in front of your boss. Try to list as many examples as you can. Now, start with the least triggering situation (ex. talking to a coworker in the break room). Think about what makes you nervous about the interaction using the three criteria listed above. Once you’ve centered on one aspect that could make you anxious, begin to develop a plan of action ahead of time. This plan could help you feel more prepared. You could rehearse an interaction with friends to practice spontaneous conversation or you could journal about ways the situation could go well. However, you want to make sure you try to engage socially. This can help build evidence of your ability to handle social situations well.
While it may be obvious, therapy is often a last resort for those struggling with social anxiety. Since therapy involves conversing with another person, those struggling with social anxiety may feel more comfortable reading blogs or watching videos about social anxiety. However, engaging with a licensed therapist, like those at SEVN Therapy Co., can help you explore your unique thought processes and social history. They can also help equip you with tools and hold you accountable to ensure you’re getting better. Therapy offers individual support to help you process situations and circumstances in the most efficient way possible.
Social anxiety can be a huge struggle for many individuals. Trying to understand the source behind the anxiety as well as ways to manage can feel daunting and confusing. With the help of a licensed professional, such as myself, social anxiety can be understood and managed healthily. With our team of professionals at SEVN Therapy Co., our goal is to get you to a place of health and healing. Take the first step today to begin your journey to a better social life. Use this link to schedule a session with me or call our office at 817-778-0522.
Alicia Williams, LPC-Associate
Supervised by Erin James, LPC-S