You’re sitting in a restaurant for your friend’s birthday and everyone’s having a blast. Drinks galore, an elaborate food spread, and music in the background. The room is filled with voices, laughter, and good vibes but for some reason, you’re struggling to breathe, your hands are sweating and all you can think about is getting home.
This isn’t because you’re not having a good time (because you are), but you can’t shake the feeling. If this sounds familiar, then you might just have social anxiety.
i might have social what?!
Social anxiety or social phobia is a common and usually long-term mental disorder that induces excessive stress in social situations.
Those struggling with social anxiety experience great fear in most social settings and particularly when interacting with others and meeting new people.
here’s how you’ll know
Many people experience social anxiety in different ways. Social interaction can trigger varying symptoms; both physical and psychological.
Here are some of the most common physical symptoms:
- Excessive sweating
- Trembling or shaking
- Rapid heart rate
Some psychological symptoms include:
- Worrying about social situations
- Avoiding social gatherings
- Worrying about embarrassing yourself
- Overthinking simple tasks
- Using alcohol to cope in social settings
why does it exist?
Researchers have yet to discover one cause for social anxiety. However, current research suggests that social phobias stem from a combination of environmental, biological, and situational factors.
Some studies also indicate that genetics can play a role in the development of social phobias; if a close relative is diagnosed, the likelier you are to experience symptoms. Other studies link social anxiety to a hypersensitive amygdala, the body’s flight-or-fright control system.
Some situational contributors include bullying, family conflicts, and abuse (physical and/or emotional).
do i actually have it?
Anxiety is not an unusual feeling, especially after withstanding COVID-19, but it’s important to be diagnosed by a medical professional so you can seek the appropriate treatments. Your healthcare provider will conduct an evaluation based on your reported symptoms and recommend therapies to help offset the symptoms of social anxiety.
social anxiety? no, thank you.
Treatment for social phobias varies for each person based on the symptoms they experience. While many physicians offer medication to combat social anxiety, many different therapies also prove beneficial.
• Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – this form of therapy helps you to channel negative thoughts and convert them to positive ones utilizing breathing and relaxation techniques.
• Exposure Therapy – this version of therapy motivates you to face your fear. It encourages gradual exposure to social situations.
• Group Therapy – support groups propose skills and coping mechanisms for people undergoing similar episodes and allow you to practice social skills in a safe environment.
Many healthcare providers also recommend getting proper sleep and avoiding caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol as those substances perpetuate anxiety.
Perhaps you or someone you know has social anxiety and while it must be taken seriously for the sake of your mental health and overall quality of life, there are promising treatments for social phobias.
Put effort into understanding your triggers and making lifestyle changes to suit your comfort level. Try breaking down challenging scenarios and focus on the present versus hypothetical assumptions of the worse.
And remember, the most important step in overcoming any mental illness is reaching out for help. If you feel like you may have social anxiety, do not hesitate to reach out to your medical provider. And if that seems overwhelming, start with small steps like telling a friend.
You’re definitely not alone on this one.