Social Anxiety Disorder
Get to know more about Social Anxiety and how to overcome it
What is a social anxiety disorder?
Being afraid of other people and especially their opinion of you is known as a social anxiety. If it is so severe that it disrupts the regular functioning of life, then it could be called a social anxiety disorder. If you suffer from a social anxiety and you want to know what is a social anxiety disorder and whether you might suffer from that, check your symptoms when you are faced with a situation in which you have no choice and must be in a social setting. People with a social anxiety disorder (SAD) will often feel some of the following symptoms:
- Increased heart beat (which you can feel pounding).
- Sweating (often in the palms of your hands)
- Stomach ache or nausea
- Blushing (often the most annoying symptom as it is seen by others)
- Hyperventilation (fast breathing)
- Feeling lightheaded as if you are going to faint
- Trembling (which you fear could be seen by other people)
Want two powerful techniques to overcome social anxiety immediately?
Fill in your name and email and receive my free video right away!
What most people with SAD do
Well, they do the obvious and in most cases they seek to avoid the social setting in which they know they will have any of these symptoms. So any setting in which it is perceived that you will be judged, humiliated, being at the center of attention, will want to make you run the other way. This is very logical, who wants pain? Social anxiety can be so disturbing to life that it makes a lot of sense that people opt for avoidance.
From my experience, these settings are often; school settings, meeting unfamiliar people, parties, meetings with people in a higher rank, dating, writing/eating in front of others, complaining in a store or returning something that was purchased.
The trouble with that
I often ask people whether their SAD has gotten worse since they started suffering from it. In almost all the cases the answer is yes. Basically the avoidance helps you in the short term. Long term however, there is a big problem developing as a result of the avoidance. It is as if you are allowing the SAD to rule you. And as you listen to that voice, the voice becomes stronger, becomes more bossy and wants to take over your life which is often how people with SAD feel. So whilst it is very understandable, the avoidance is making your SAD worse.
Safety behaviors are used by people with SAD when they are forced to comply and participate in meetings that trigger them so in order to make it more tolerable, they use safety behaviours. This is slightly better than complete avoidance. Here are some examples that I’ve seen;
- Going to the party but making sure to go along with someone else
- Making as if you are on the phone with someone
- Speaking to a stranger but making up some excuse why you can’t talk for long
- Excessive apologizing for something that is perceived to be on the mind of the other
How can SAD be helped effectively
Like other forms of anxieties, medication is an option. Usually your doctor will prescribe SSRI’s for a social anxiety such as Paxil, Zoloft or other ones in that group. Most of the time, SAD sufferers will see a great improvement in the intensity of their fears and will be less troubled by them. The research shows that the greatest benefit is from combining therapy such as Cognitive-Behavioral-Therapy (CBT) together with the medication.
So I will offer you some coping tools that will actually be used in therapy if you wish to go down that road. For a start make a list of all the settings that you avoid due to your social anxiety. Then put them in a hierarchy, going from the worst and most anxiety provoking to the least. You will notice that the items that you wrote at the top of the list (the most difficult), are the ones that you tend to avoid altogether. The items lower on the list are the settings that you don’t necessarily avoid but you do them with safety behaviours.
At the bottom of your list you now have the easiest trigger for you but it is still a challenge. Now decide that you will confront this particular setting and drop the safety behavior that is associated with it. You need to remember that it will become easier after you’ve done so several times. Anxiety tends to work with a peak. At some point you will feel the anxiety rise and I want you to allow it to be there. Just breathe your way through it and keep asking yourself whether it is still going up or is it already on its way down. Allow yourself to be an observer of your anxiety and notice that you are surviving it. Your psyche will adapt and stop seeing this particular setting as a danger and stop giving you false alarms.
Allow yourself to stay at first step until you feel that this particular social setting does not give you any intense emotions anymore. Once you feel that this has been ‘neutralized’, you can go to step nr 2 and take the next easiest item on your list and do that again.
Some people find it too difficult to confront their social anxiety triggers on their own. If you feel that way, and it is just too difficult, a therapist specializing in CBT could be very helpful. You would be taught various skills on how to manage these confrontations. These therapeutic interventions are very useful in helping you to cope with the anxiety as you overcome them one by one.