Social anxiety is the fear of social interactions and being in a public place. Usually triggered by something or someone that makes us feel uncomfortable about ourselves, it’s what prevents us from speaking up in a group and makes us feel uncomfortable in a crowded room.
And it’s very common. Affecting around 7% of the US population, it is the third largest psychological disorder in the country. Here’s how you can overcome it.
1) Create a List
Create a list of ten situations that make you feel anxious in order of severity. Try using a 100-point scale; zero being no anxiety and 100 being extreme anxiety. Then perform the easiest situation eg. buying some chocolate from the store and move up the list. This approach will help you both organise your anxious thoughts and overcome them one step at a time.
2) Challenge Your Anxious Thoughts
Identifying and then fighting off the cause of your social anxiety can help you rid yourself of irrational fears that cause anxiety attacks. For example’s sake, let’s say you get anxious when meeting new people as you’re scared of being judged. To challenge any negative thoughts here, you could try asking yourself, “What evidence that people think badly of you? Why would anyone really care if you feel anxious? How is it relevant to them?” As you answer these questions, you’ll realise that people tend to be more interested in themselves and are most likely not judging you in the first place.
3) Focus on Others, Not Yourself
Show genuine interest in who the people around you are are and what they say. Don’t hesitate to ask them questions on topics they mention that interest you. And remember, even if someone notices you’re a little anxious, more than one in three people suffer from anxiety disorders at some point in their life times. There’s a decent possibility they could be just as nervous too or will know how it feels.
Therapists have great treatments to overcome social anxiety, such as cognitive behaviour therapy, a type of therapy that helps replace negative thought processes and actions with more positive ones. Some severe cases of social anxiety can benefit from group therapy. Medication could also help you control your symptoms better.
Social anxiety can cause the best of us to isolate ourselves from the world, but it shouldn’t be a reason to do so. Challenging it- be it by focusing on yourself, challenging yourself or taking therapy is the best way to overcome it, or at least make it more manageable.