Social anxiety disorder is one of the more common forms of anxiety, affecting an estimated 12 percent of adults throughout their lifetime. Among people with a form of social anxiety, as many as one-third (29.9 percent) experience serious impairment. Unlike introversion, social anxiety is a disabling condition that can cripple a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others, cause unfounded fear of humiliation, fear of being gossiped about, and fear of betrayal. So, how does one go about coping with social anxiety?
Overcoming or coping with social anxiety can be difficult, especially in these times. More and more teens are identifying as socially anxious, making it a more significant issue in the near future. Treatment is needed to deal with social anxiety effectively – but certain at-home coping skills can help take the edge off and make recovery easier.
What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by emotional and physical symptoms, such as:
- Fear of being judged negatively
- Fear that you will appear anxious to others
- Fear of embarrassment
- Intense fear of talking to strangers
- Fear of the physical repercussions of socializing, such as intense blushing, sweating, hot flushes, shaky voice, or jitters/trembling
- Buildup of fear before any kind of social event
- Drastically avoiding any situation where attention might be called onto you
- Severe stage fright or fear of public speech
- Harshly criticizing your performance after a social situation
- Expecting the worst of out any social situation, at all times
People with social anxiety disorder do not simply prefer to be left alone but specifically want to be alone because the alternative causes them great distress. This characterizes social anxiety as a disorder because it can severely impact a person’s ability to make friends, meet new people, socialize at work, and develop normal, healthy relationships. In some cases, social anxiety is also accompanied by generalized anxiety, agoraphobia (fear of crowds or being unable to escape), and depression.
Coping with Social Anxiety Disorder
Overcoming severe social anxiety requires professional help. But regardless of whether your symptoms are severe or moderate, there are ways in which you can address your anxiety step-by-step from the comfort of your home, preferably with a therapist’s cues and assistance.
1. Learning to Avoid Negative Coping Skills
Yes, you can cope badly. Maladaptive coping strategies, or negative coping skills, are forms of “stress management” that leave you worse off, in the long-term, usually by further contributing to anxiety symptoms and causing more isolation over time. For social anxiety disorder, the most common and dangerous of these is substance use, but there are other forms of negative coping. They might include binge eating and poor dietary habits, caffeine overuse, and using books or video games as escapist tools 24/7. There is a time and place for relaxing, treating yourself, or having a drink. But the overuse of these tactics can lead to short-term comfort and long-term anxiety.
2. Overcoming Avoidance
This one is especially difficult because it’s something no one explicitly wants to do. But a big part of learning to cope with social anxiety is to, well, socialize. It’s not healthy to throw yourself into the ocean headfirst either – but developing a plan of action with your closest friends or loved ones to slowly reincorporate yourself into social situations without deploying avoidance tactics or resorting to the aforementioned negative coping skills is important.
Yes, it’s important not to vilify introversion or force yourself to be someone you aren’t. But there is a fine line between finding your healthy level of human interaction and completely isolating yourself from others, out of an unfounded set of fears and anxieties. Social anxiety is not so much about just not enjoying the company of most people, as it is about being scared of what most people will think – whether they do or don’t think it. That’s what you must overcome.
3. Catch Your Thoughts
Like other anxiety disorders, a lot of social anxiety comes from within. There is no reasonable way to expect someone to just “stop” thinking a certain way. But through therapy, you can learn to begin identifying key remarks and recurring thoughts that you tend to experience as someone who gets anxious in social situations.
Learning to pinpoint and turn these thoughts around by explicitly converting them into affirmative and positive statements can have a marked effect on your mental health and behavior.
4. Get Moving
It’s a cliché, but a good one – physical exercise can play a solid role in improving your mental health as well as your physical health and can help the brain soothe and reduce anxious thoughts by a significant degree.
If you’re worried about being social at the gym, take a less harrowing first step by training at home. Make the jump to a larger public facility as you get fitter or start developing specific fitness or sports goals.
5. Prioritize Good Sleep and Healthy Eats
What you eat and how you treat yourself also play significant roles in the severity of anxiety disorders. Good food, physical activity, and better sleep aren’t mental panaceas, but they can help reduce anxiety symptoms even further, especially in conjunction with a continuous mental healthcare plan involving therapy (and, in some cases, medication).
Start with small changes to your diet and manageable shifts towards healthier foods that you can afford to make, both in terms of time investment and financial considerations. Adopt better sleep rituals for a healthier sleep hygiene.
6. Stick to the Plan
Treatment adherence is a serious consideration for physical and mental health conditions alike. It’s one thing to get the help you need – and it’s another to stick to the plan. There will be days when you don’t want to. That’s why a support network is crucial. Convince your loved ones to play a role in keeping you on schedule, encouraging you to take care of your daily needs.
7. Try Out Journaling
When things are coming to a head, especially before a big event, you will need a coping skill that lets you blow off steam. If working out or going for a walk isn’t enough, consider using a creative outlet to drain some energy and prepare for the big day. Journaling, writing, or drawing can help you process your thoughts, slow them down, and remind yourself not to get caught up in an anxious cycle.
Social Anxiety Treatment in Malibu
At the end of the day, social anxiety is not something that will go away on its own time, even if it feels like it might be tied to your current situation and circumstances. It may feel like things got a lot harder for you on the socializing front after COVID hit, for example, but that feeling isn’t something that will just pass on its own.
Employing these tips for coping with anxiety can help you get a better handle on your social anxiety issues and your mental health overall, but it’s no replacement for the professional guidance of a psychiatrist or therapist. Seek out treatment for social anxiety disorder from someone you can trust and be comfortable with, and formulate a plan that works for you.