Social anxiety is defined as a fear of social situations, but it’s both more and less than that. Social anxiety is the feeling of panic that happens when you need to make a phone call because you’re afraid you’ll sound like an idiot. It’s also putting up walls so it becomes difficult to get to know your real personality, so you won’t be rejected or hurt. Social anxiety is also the feeling of not wanting to enter a conversation because you’re afraid of not having anything to say. Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, is the third largest psychological problem in the United States today.
It causes lots of problems with employment, forming friendships, and other areas of life. Fortunately, social anxiety does not have to define you. There are ways to overcome your social anxiety.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a useful approach to social anxiety. This specific type of therapy helps you practice approaching social situations while still in a safe place. A common starting point for this therapy is to make a list of anxiety-producing situations and rank them in a “fear hierarchy.” Each situation is broken down into component parts and each part of the activity is given a rank from 0 to 10. A person afraid of making phone calls would rank thinking about placing the phone call, dialing the phone, waiting for an answer, having the conversation, and hanging up. This process helps you determine how you think you feel about social situations versus how you actually feel while you’re in them. The two can be very different, often for the better.
Knowing this information can help you challenge your negative thoughts, which is crucial to overcoming your social anxiety. When you’re anxious before a social situation, you will be able to say to yourself “Did it go as badly as I was afraid of last time?” One key thing to remember is that simply getting through the experience you were afraid of is worth a reward. After the fact, focus on that instead of constantly mentally rehashing the experience. You may want to consider investing in professional care and any necessary medication.
That’s not to say it’s an easy process. It’s really not. It takes work and courage just to begin to overcome social anxiety. Put another way, beginning to overcome social anxiety demonstrates the courage you already have. One thing you can do to make the process easier is to develop your own anxiety first aid kit. It should be filled with items that bring you comfort when you need it. It can be as literal as a box of crayons and a coloring book, or something like watching an episode of your favorite television series. Fill your first aid kit with whatever you reliably find soothing. You can also use your first aid kit to reward yourself after successfully getting through a social event. The point is to feel like it’s something special.
The last little while before attending a social event can be the most anxiety-inducing. To help you deal with the stress, try distractions like a game app, your favorite hobby, or a craft project. If you feel alone, there are some great blogs dedicated to overcoming anxiety that offer perspectives and advice on how to overcome your social anxiety.
Even though this process is not easy, there is no way to fail as long as you don’t give up. There’s no magic involved, just lots of repetition and introspection. New ways of thought have to be practiced in order to be effectively learned. Once the new techniques and thought patterns are mastered, you will be able to live the life you want, one that’s free from social anxiety. It’s worth the effort.