It’s normal to feel nervous in certain social situations. For example, most people will experience a little bit of anxiety when giving a presentation, networking at conferences, going on a date or interview, and attending a wedding when they don’t know anyone. But when someone is struggling with social anxiety, they often feel anxious in everyday interactions.
Social anxiety is a common mental health issue in the world today, and social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia) is the second most diagnosed anxiety disorder in the United States, affecting approximately 15 million American adults.
Whereas, social contact that other people would consider “normal” like going out with friends, talking to work colleagues, making a phone call, going to the gym, or seeing family – for people with social anxiety can result in heightened anxiety levels. To manage their symptoms, they often avoid these day-to-day activities and regularly cancel plans.
What is Social Anxiety?
Feeling shy or uncomfortable aren’t necessarily signs of social anxiety disorder.
Our abilities to interact in social situations vary depending on personality traits and life experiences. Some people are naturally shyer and more reserved than others.
According to Mayo Clinic: In social anxiety disorder, everyday interactions cause significant anxiety, fear, self-consciousness, and embarrassment because you fear being scrutinized or judged by others. [The] fear and anxiety can lead to avoidance that can disrupt your life. Severe stress can affect your daily routine, work, school, or other activities.
So, social anxiety disorder is a long-term and overwhelming fear of social situations that can be difficult to handle and affect all areas of your life.
If you have a social anxiety disorder, you might avoid all social contact because even the simplest things like saying hello or making eye contact can make you very uncomfortable.
Sign and Symptoms of Social Anxiety
The main signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder can include persistent,
- Fear and anxiety when interacting with others
- Worrying about everyday activities
- Expecting the worst outcome
- Avoiding social situations and regularly canceling plans
- Overthinking how you will behave in social situations and how others will perceive you
- Criticizing yourself after social interactions
- Worrying what people think of you
- Fear of speaking in public
You can also experience physical symptoms such as
- Fast heartbeat
- Trembling, Sweating, and/or blushing
- Stomach problems
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle tension
Common Social Anxiety Scenarios
Each person suffering from a social anxiety disorder is going to experience it in their own way, but there are some common situations that many will have trouble with:
- Going to work, college or school
- Getting on public transport
- Participating in meetings
- Making eye contact
- Using public toilets
- Initiating conversations
- Entering rooms
- Eating in front of other people
- Going to parties
- Talking to strangers
- Public speaking
- Going on dates
How to Manage Social Anxiety?
In my experience, the most effective techniques for managing social anxiety include :
1. Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle is essential for physical and mental health.
Changing your lifestyle, including adopting healthy eating, regular exercise, and relaxation techniques, can help you reduce your social anxiety symptoms.
- Studies show that people with anxiety disorders are likely to be deficient in certain essential nutrients, and so eating a healthy and balanced diet is the first step to managing your social anxiety.
- Exercise is one of the quickest ways to relieve anxiety. But also, regular physical activity can help you change your brain structure in a way to help you manage your social anxiety long term. I’ve found that it’s best to start with walking and/or home workout videos while trying to get your social anxiety under control.
- As little as 15 minutes of daily meditation can help you retrain your mind to stay present, in turn, shifting you away from social worries.
2. Change Your Mindset
When you are struggling with social anxiety, your mind is often overwhelmed with negative thoughts.
Journaling and repeating positive affirmations are highly effective techniques for working on your thought patterns and mental health, in general.
Express your fears, emotions, and worries in your social anxiety journal to start to make sense of them and identify your negative thought patterns.
Then use positive affirmations to start to change these thoughts into ones that serve you better.
3. Practice Self-Love
At the heart of social anxiety is a lack of self-love. We feel anxious in social situations because we have low-confidence and low self-esteem. Tell yourself, “I love you” every day and take good care of yourself to make this believable. If you live healthily and practice positive thoughts, these are acts of self-love as well.
Social anxiety is a common problem in the world today.
While we can all experience discomfort in new situations, social anxiety is when we experience fear and worry about social interaction every day.
Start to manage your symptoms by eating healthily, exercising, thinking positively, and practicing self-love.