Have you ever canceled a plan with friends because you were not feeling up to it?
Do you avoid weddings to escape nosy relatives?
While it might look like an ordinary occurrence every once in a while, this might not be the case. These recurring habits can form an underlying pattern. Psychologists refer to it as ‘social anxiety. Social anxiety meaning the nervousness one faces in social scenarios is one of the most common mental health issues. Today, we’ll help you discover the causes, warning signs, stages, and methods to deal with social anxiety.
Community effort towards identifying social anxiety and providing a helping hand to those who suffer from the same can help us all overcome social anxiety together.
Understanding social anxiety meaning and knowing how common it is might make you think,
Is social anxiety normal?
The answer is NO.
Social anxiety might be a common issue but it is still, nevertheless, an issue.
People with this problem, tend to feel fear and nervousness tenfolds the time others would feel it, even under ordinary circumstances. Special help must be provided to them, in order to help them lead productive lives.
Social anxiety meaning
Have you ever wondered what is social anxiety?
Social anxiety refers to feeling extreme levels of fear or nervousness in social situations. For example, a socially anxious person is likely to avoid a school reunion, family gathering, or other such public events to steer clear of the unwanted feeling of nervousness. If left unchecked, social anxiety can adversely affect an individual’s personal as well as professional life.
Keep in mind, social anxiety must not be confused with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD).
SAD is a mental health disorder that is clinically diagnosable and requires medical attention for its cure. Social anxiety forms a large part of the disorder but the disorder, itself has been linked to several other comorbidities like depression, abuse, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, and more.
Social anxiety can also exist independent of this disorder, in the form of a temporary situational problem. Simply put, a person with the disorder feels compelled to avoid a meeting whereas a person with social anxiety might subconsciously avoid it.
What causes social anxiety?
The ‘what causes social anxiety’ factors are yet to be established. However, currently, experts are looking into genetics, environmental factors, and previous experiences as possible causes.
Here’s a list of people who can get social anxiety:
· Feeling insecure:
Yes! That horrible-horrible feeling.
Scrolling through a celebrity’s social media page or watching one too many shows could give you an unreal sense of the world. You could be left feeling insecure and inept. This could leave you feeling anxious the next time you think of stepping out in public.
· Being an introvert:
If you’re a naturally shy person, you are less likely to interact with people. As an introvert, you often safeguard your thoughts in your mind and avoid speaking them out loud. Socializing is way out of your comfort zone!
· Having Low self-esteem:
Ever get that thought: I don’t know why I said what I said?
When speaking to people in large groups, two of the most uncomfortable feelings are lacking confidence and not knowing what to say. Finding comfort in being radio silent during joint conversations, might cause a lot of damage to you, both personally and professionally.
· Sudden transformation:
Lady, did you just color my hair green?
A haircut gone wrong, sudden change in weight, cracking of the voice at puberty, change in personality or opinions could lead to reduced socializing. This is because you fear being judged. You are afraid this new version of you might be rejected by people, especially, by those close to you.
· Having certain fears:
Have you ever had your mom yell at you in a public place? Probably in front of your relatives?
We’ve all been there. The feeling of embarrassment that follows makes us feel very- very uncomfortable. It might lead to you looking for excuses to miss the next get-together.
· Disliking something:
We all hate awkward situations.
Small talk with strangers, being observed while eating, confrontations, and prying relatives can make you nervous to the extent you just shut down.
· Social Anxiety Disorder
It goes without saying, suffering from this disorder would have you face social anxiety quite often. You are chemically wired to avoid social situations and want nothing to do with them.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a sensitive mental health disorder that could lead to social anxiety. If you have been a victim of bullying, physical abuse, or humiliation, this could make you want to stay away from social situations at all costs.
· Being disconnected for too long:
In times like today, where the pandemic has forced us to stay indoors to stay safe, socializing is becoming less prevalent. Conversations over call and texts are nowhere near real-life conversations when you are face to face with a person and can express yourself clearly.
When the lockdown lifts, you will find it difficult to bring yourself out of your home and converse with people again as you adjust to a new normal yet again.
What are some warning signs of social anxiety?
To help a friend suffering from social anxiety, you would first need to identify him/her as being socially anxious.
Here are some social anxiety symptoms to keep an eye out for:
- If a person worries too much when waiting in anticipation of a meeting, speech or phone call.
Example: They keep making excuses to avoid a call with their boss.
- If a person avoids social gatherings like team meetings, parties, weddings and more.
Example: They suddenly fall sick before presenting at the company meeting, every single time.
- If a person predicts the outcome of a situation and tends to multiply it in their head.
Example: They express how certain they are about not getting the job and decide to skip the interview.
- If a person avoids eye contact at all times.
Example: They tend to look at the ground when speaking, instead of looking at you.
- If a person often tends to have palpitations or panic attacks due to the building tension and nervousness.
Example: They get super sweaty or shiver just by the thought of public speaking. They could faint or blackout too.
- If a person blanks out during a speech often.
Example: They often forget their lines or look confused when speaking.
- If a person has a nervous or emotional meltdown because they feel stressed about talking to someone.
Example: They cry the night before an event because they are afraid of socializing.
To understand some of the symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder, read: 8 Social Anxiety Disorder Symptoms you ought to know about
What are the stages of social anxiety?
Even before the event begins, you are likely to predict the outcome of it. You will worry about your listeners’ opinions and responses. This will increase the level of alertness, leaving you feeling vulnerable and afraid.
This stage of social anxiety could drastically impact your confidence and mood.
2. Build on:
As the event runs its course, you might continue focusing only on the negative aspects, like remarks that went unacknowledged, a joke that did not receive a roaring laugh.
This will drive you to think your listeners are judging you and you might feel like you are being disliked.
As if putting yourself through the previous two stages was not enough, if you are socially anxious you will continue to mull over things even after the event is long over. You will put yourself through a lot of self-criticisms and burn this experience in the back of your mind.
Leaving you stuck in a vicious cycle as each time you think of a social setup, you will recall this experience and reconsider going through with it.
How to deal with social anxiety?
Just understanding social anxiety meaning, causes and symptoms are not enough. Dealing with it is an important aspect too.
Although there are self-help methods available, the solution to social anxiety is a combination of self-help methods and professional help.
A productive exercise to perform at any time and anywhere. Meditation alleviates stress and nervousness. A sound and balanced mind are better trained to handle anxiety.
· Positive Thinking:
If you overanalyze every situation and make a lot of negative predictions, you might want to reconsider your thinking process. Shifting towards positive thoughts will help reduce anxiety.
· Stress Management:
If being in a social environment stresses you out, adopt certain stress management techniques to keep yourself out of its way. The lesser the stress you have to deal with, the lesser will be the anxiety that comes with it.
Help from a professional therapist can work wonders for people with social anxiety. Even if your problem is temporary and not a disorder-related issue, therapists act as companions and can help overcome any obstacles you face on your way to recovery.
Apart from all methods mentioned above, anti-anxiety meds, antidepressants, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are a few medicines that might be prescribed to you by a psychiatrist, if need be.
To read more about how to deal with social anxiety, the medical route, visit: 6 Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment Methods: Medico therapy.
Also Read: Social Anxiety Treatment: Medication.
Tests for Social Anxiety Disorder
There are no medically proven sure-shot examinations to detect social anxiety disorder as of today. However, there are certain ways to tell if somebody around you might be suffering from SAD:
- Look out for symptoms.
If you or a person you know of has social anxiety or suffers from Social Anxiety Disorder, there are a few tell-tale signs. While someone with the temporary problem of social anxiety might appear shy in general, someone suffering from SAD is likely to show extreme signs such as avoidance and escapism.
- Self- Assessment Quizzes.
If upon noticing symptoms, you are still unconvinced regarding the presence of social anxiety or SAD, there are a few self-assessment quizzes available on the net. It is worth giving it a try, to confirm your doubts. However, it is not advised to accept the results (whether negative or positive) as they are. Further confirmation from a physician is imperative.
- Visit a psychiatrist.
A psychiatrist is a medical practitioner who deals with mental health and related issues. He/she is experienced in handling symptomatic patients. If you have noticed the symptoms previously or find them escalating, it might be a good time to visit the psychiatrist. The doctor will evaluate your symptoms from precedents and recommend other tests to be run, in order to ascertain SAD.
To read more about social anxiety disorder tests, visit: Social anxiety disorder test: myths and facts discussed
Now, that you know much about social anxiety, the final question that might cross your mind is:
Does social anxiety ever go away?
The answer is YES.
In the case of temporary social anxiety, the symptoms can be reduced and the problem can be overcome.
However, in certain cases, like with people suffering from SAD, social anxiety can only be reduced and controlled. They would require professional help and medical treatment.
Having social anxiety could hamper day-to-day activities and make life very challenging. However, in this day and age, with the advanced studies in science, diagnosing this problem and getting the right treatment for it has become very simple. Once you have understood the symptoms, overcoming them becomes much easier. An important note to keep in mind would be to never hesitate when seeking professional help. Doctors, therapists, and guides like us can help you when you cannot complete the road to recovery alone.
Together we stand, together we can.
Let me know in the comments below, how this article was of help to you.
What is social anxiety?
An overwhelming surge of nervousness or fear that takes over when you find yourself in a social situation is referred to as social anxiety. For example, a person suffering from social anxiety often tends to have sweaty palms just by the thought of giving a speech in public. Please ensure the sweating is not caused due to sultry weather or other body conditions such as hyperhidrosis. Avoid diagnosing yourself based on symptoms explained on online platforms. A professional’s opinion is a must.
What is the difference between social anxiety and social phobia?
Social anxiety and social phobia share more or less the same symptoms. However, social anxiety might be a temporary problem that causes individuals to feel nervous in social situations. People suffering from social phobia, on the other hand, feel an overwhelming compulsion to avoid a social situation and can also have frequent panic attacks or emotional breakdowns.
In either case, an expert’s opinion is essential, both to confirm the presence and look for treatment thereof. If you think you or someone you know might be suffering from either condition, book an appointment with a medical professional immediately.
Is there a cure for social anxiety disorder?
There is no miracle cure for social anxiety disorder. However, an integrated effort involving medical intervention in the form of therapy, medications, and self-help methods can help overcome the disorder gradually. Avoid self-diagnosis and book an appointment with the nearest doctor in order to confirm the presence of the disorder. Upon being diagnosed, the medical professional will recommend a customized routine for you to follow with respect to your meds and coping techniques.
Most Social Anxiety Disorder treatment medications require a prescription. Approach a medical professional to discuss your symptoms and obtain the appropriate doses to help with the severity of your condition.