Social Anxiety

Posted on Jan 3, 2013 in Self Help |

Social Anxiety

Some people find it hard to relax in the company of others. They often worry about what other people are thinking, and they tend to go over and over events and situations analysing their performance. Some of the symptoms of social anxiety include:

  • Blushing/embarrassment
  • Shyness/avoiding eye contact
  • Trembling/shaking/sweating
  • Confusion – not knowing what to say
  • Stuttering/quiet voice
  • Heart racing/fast shallow breathing
  • Nausea/vomiting/stomach problems

Having these symptoms in the company of others, while feeling they are watching and noticing, is known as Social Anxiety. Unfortunately this often leads to wanting to avoid situations, and as a consequence can lead to the following behaviours:

  • Not accepting social invitations/cancelling at the last moment
  • Not committing to social occasions/being undecided
  • Feelings of dread or panic for days and hours before a social outing/overthinking
  • Leaving suddenly or early/difficulty coping with anxious feelings
  • Not joining in conversations/uncomfortable silences

All of these behaviours can create difficulties in maintaining relationships, causing confusion and misunderstandings.

There are some positive things that you can do, and some different ways to think about the problem. Here are just three steps that you can take to reduce the symptoms of social anxiety and improve your relationships.

Step One: You are not alone.

Although you might feel like you are alone and everyone else is confident and outgoing, this is not true. There is a lot of value placed on being the extravert, outgoing and energetic, and many people with social anxiety expect, or would like to be, more like this. However many people are naturally more introvert, reserved and quiet, you just don’t notice them as much. The first step then is to take more notice of the people that are like you, reserved and quiet.

Step Two: Thought bubbles

In strip cartoons they draw thought bubbles over people’s heads so that you know what they are thinking. Maybe you do something similar when you are around other people. It’s important to remember that you are not a mind reader, and you can’t know what they are thinking. What can happen is that you take your thoughts and you imagine that this is what the other person is thinking. This is like you writing in a thought bubble over their head. The second step then, is to imagine thought bubbles over people’s heads. Notice when you start to write in the thought bubbles, when you imagine you know what they are thinking. Work on keeping the thought bubbles blank.

Step Three: Start small

Many people find it harder to relax with groups, strangers, or in unfamiliar surroundings. It is usually helpful to build up your confidence with small groups or individuals that you know. However some people find the opposite, that it is harder in one to one situations with people that are important to them. Step three is about finding people that you can practice conversations with, and who will help to build your experience and confidence.

There are many strategies that you can use to help to reduce the symptoms of social anxiety. You may not be the loudest, most energetic, or most self-assured person in the room, but do you want to be?