Social anxiety is not the same as shyness. Even the most exhibitionistic extrovert can experience bashful moments. Social anxiety is a disorder that can disable your daily life. It’s common, it’s daunting, but it can be normalized and overcome.
An Overview of Social Anxiety Disorder
Once called “social phobia,” social anxiety disorder is typically characterized by a blend of intense anxiety and self-consciousness. This blend exists even in the most mundane of everyday situations. In some cases, it runs in families. Other times, it manifests in the presence of depression or conditions like panic disorder.
Due to a wide range of often downplayed symptoms, numbers for social anxiety disorder are complicated to compile. As of now, it’s believed that:
Common Symptoms of Social Anxiety
There are a variety of emotional and physical symptoms characteristic of social anxiety.
9 Tips to Help You Normalize and Overcome Social Anxiety
1. Accept the facts
As basic as it may sound, it’s essential to name the problem. There’s no shame in social anxiety disorder. Accepting its presence can empower you with the specific steps you can take.
2. Silence that inner critic
Social anxiety disorder loves to tell you lies. “They don’t like you. You’re not good enough. It’s better to avoid any risks.” And the list goes on. Talk back to that inner voice with words and deeds.
3. Practice mindfulness
So much of social anxiety exists in your perceptions of the past and the future. Mindfulness can situate you in the present moment—where clarity exists.
4. Create a support system
You may often wish to be alone, but in others, you can find new strength. Let people know you like them but you have some unique needs.
5. Take small steps at first
Quite often, it’s a slow progression into this disorder. Thus, the path out can go as slowly or quickly as feel right for you. Every journey begins with a single step.
6. Identify triggers/Keep a journal
How much do you know about your social anxiety? Keep a journal to track triggers and responses. This will come in handy during therapy sessions.
7. Celebrate positive experiences
Every step is a victory! You may feel like “all” you did was chat with a stranger but it’s a big deal. Shift the vibe to positivity by taking every opportunity to celebrate your progress.
8. Learn as much as possible about the disorder
Don’t leave yourself guessing. Find reliable sources and educate yourself about social anxiety disorder. Strip away its power and its mystery.
9. Create a “hierarchy” of fear
It really helps to have a scaling system. A “1” may be saying hello to a store employee. A “10” might involve inviting a new friend to hang out. Gauge your anxiety and monitor your behavior as you move up the scale.
Can Therapy Be the Bridge?
It may feel daunting or even counterintuitive, but the answer is a resounding “YES.” Precisely at the time when meeting someone new, therapy is the right choice. Just as you decide you can’t open up to anyone, you will find the safe space to do so. Progressive sessions will not only explore the roots of your social anxiety, they will serve as practice. You’ll learn to trust the process and you learn more about what you are capable of. Quite often, the bridge from isolation to socialization starts with a single phone call or email.
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