Updated: Jun 19
Social Anxiety is more than shyness.
It is a fear that does not go away and affects everyday activities, self-confidence, relationships and work or school life.
Many people occasionally worry about social situations, but someone with social anxiety feels overly worried before, during and after the event.
The defining feature of social anxiety is not just about being in a social situation, but it is an intense fear of being judged by others, criticised, or rejected.
People with social anxiety think that if they do things jut right they can avoid disappointing others and escape the dreaded possibility of being judged, but of course immunity to others judgements is an unrealistic expectation, everyone has different opinions and sometimes we can interpret these differing opinions as judgements.
Social anxiety can also incur strong physical s symptoms such as rapid heart rate, nausea and sweating, and some may experience panic attacks.
Social anxiety generally starts as a teenager, individuals with social anxiety commonly report extreme shyness in childhood, but it is important to note that social anxiety is not simply shyness, and these symptoms continue through life.
Someone with social anxiety will have symptoms so extreme they will disrupt their daily life and interfere significantly with daily routines, performance at work, social life, school, job interviews, friendships, and romantic relationships
People with social anxiety are also likely to be at an increased risk of developing depression or maybe alcohol misuse, as a drink can often be a coping mechanism for social anxiety. The dependency and consequences of social anxiety can go far beyond just a fear of social situations.
Despite the availability of effective treatments, fewer than 5% of people with social anxiety seek help and more than a third of people report they have had symptoms for 10 years, or more, before seeking help.
One of the most common treatments for social anxiety is CBT Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which involves gradual exposure to social situations.
A therapist would work with their client to identify and challenge their negative thoughts and beliefs about socialising and would often involve some behaviour experiments in which the client tests how they cope in situations. This exposure allows them to challenge these thoughts and beliefs in real life situations in a measured and safe way.
Alongside challenging our negative thoughts (you can find out more about this in my blog https://www.seeclearcounselling.co.uk/post/what-are-unhelpful-thinking-styles-and-why-do-you-need-to-know-about-them) how else can you find ways to manage socail anxiety.
1. Set realistic intentions when you venture out in public. Try not to 'mind read' believing you know what others are thinking, you can never really know what someone is thinking, until you ask.
Set realistic expectations for yourself and don't try to live up to the expectations you believe others have of you.
Try to adopt what we call an expansive mindset- If I displease someone, I can forgive myself, whether they forgive me or not.
2. Curb the urge to seek reassurance from others that you are doing the right thing. Getting reassurance reinforces the belief that by doing everything right we avoid criticism. True confidence will come from allowing yourself to make mistakes and accepting that you cannot possibly please all the people all of the time.
3. Allow any feeling of embarrassment or shame that arise, they will dissipate on their own.
Negative emotions are not a sign that you have done something wrong, it is just your own morals and values have been challenged, but that is ok.
When we are open to uncomfortable emotions, rather than try to distract ourselves away from them, they will generally move away more quickly.
Facing these difficult emotions regularly will enable you to have the confidence in your own actions and give you the self confidence that you are not being judged by others, it is just their opinion, an opinion that differs from your own.
Laura Knight Dip Couns MBACP is am experienced and qualified counsellor and CBT therapist who runs her own private practice SeeClear Counselling in Poole Dorset.
She is an anxiety UK approved Therapist and specialises in working with anxiety and panic attacks, helping adults with anxiety move from a place of fear and worry to a place of clam leading to a happier, more fulfilled life.
Laura can offer face to face, telephone and video counselling
You can contact Laura by text or phone 07975733029