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What Is Social Anxiety Disorder And How Can You Deal With It?

Everyone gets nervous once in a while. It usually happens in situations where all eyes are on you, where the outcome is uncertain. It is normal, but in the case of social anxiety disorder, which is also called social phobia, the nervousness is irrational and crippling. However, by putting certain measures in place, you can overcome your social phobia completely and live your life fuller.
What is Social Anxiety
Social anxiety disorder or social phobia is extreme nervousness caused by the fear of being judged. You are constantly wondering what others are thinking and whether you are embarrassing yourself. Most times, except in situations where you are indeed holding the floor, the thought that someone is watching you is completely false. In fact, the only reason they may be watching you is if they notice how awkward you are acting.
It doesn't matter whether you are aware that the thoughts are completely irrational. You still just can't help feeling extremely nervous which hinders your social life.

What Causes Social Anxiety Disorder?

There are three causes of Social Anxiety disorder

1. Biological Influences

Social anxiety may occur as a result of erratic brain activity. This is where the brain's system responsible for preparing the body for flight or fight mistakes ordinary situations for serious threats.

2. Past Experience

What happens if you try to approach a girl for the first time and are ruthlessly humiliated? Chances are, you will have a really tough time approaching another. In your brain, approaching a girl will have been registered as a threat and o it prepares your body for the worst. The problem is that the negative past experience may have been a one-time thing but your social phobia will see everything as hell.

3. Environmental Influences

How you perceive events experienced by others may also contribute to your social phobia. By observing the actions of others and their negative consequences, your brain gets wired for the worst whenever a similar situation presents itself. 

What Are Some of the Triggers of Social Phobia

Social Anxiety disorder is more common than you might think. In the USA, it is the third most common mental problem affecting more than 19 million people.

Some People have specific fears that trigger the anxiety attacks while may have more than one. The most common triggers include public speaking, and talking to strangers. Others are:

  • Giving performances on stage
  • Going on a date with someone new
  • Facing criticism or teasing
  • Talking on the phone
  • Having a meal in public
  • Having to speak in a meeting
  • Interacting at parties
  • Conversing with people considered as important. 

Signs and Symptoms of Social Phobia

Getting anxious from time to time is normal. For example, it is normal to feel uncomfortable before speaking in front of people. But if you have social phobia, you would be extremely worried for days, weeks, or months before the event. The mere thought of it can send you into panic. During the speech, you may find yourself shaking uncontrollably, rendering yourself incapable if performing the task at hand.

There are three types of signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder. These are emotional, physical, and behavioral signs.

Emotional Signs

  • Being overly self-conscious and anxious in daily situations
  • Worrying intensely weeks or months ahead of the event
  • Being extremely afraid of being watching by people
  • Being afraid that you'll embarrass yourself
  • Being afraid that people will sense your anxiety

Physical Signs

  • Your face turns red
  • You get shortness of breath
  • You tremble and shake uncontrollably
  • Your heart races and your chest feels tight
  • You get an upset stomach and feel nauseous

Behavioural Signs

  • Hiding in social setting to keep all the attention from yourself
  • Always needing to be with a friend when faced with social situations
  • Having to drink prior to engaging in social interactions

How to Deal With Social Anxiety Disorder

1. It starts in your mind

Social phobia is of course accompanied by extremely negative thoughts. Curtailing these is the step to freedom. They come in 4 types.

The Prophet of Doom: Blowing negative possibilities out of proportion and into catastrophes.
The Time Traveller: You have already gone into the future and seen just how negative the whole thing will go.
The Mind Reader: Thinking you know what those around you are thinking, which is always negative.
The Centre of Attention: Thinking people are observing your every move, taking note of the embarrassing ones.

These thoughts are illogical and the best way to silence them is by countering them rational thought. Analyse the situation and ask yourself what the reality could be. Are the people at the restaurant exactly paying attention to you? The more you logically think things through, the more absurd your fears appear. This makes them less powerful.

2. Control Your Breathing
Among the physical changes that occur in your body when you're anxious is shortness of breath. This leads to other reactions that make the situation worse, like feeling nauseous or dizzy. By taking deep, well-paced breaths, you sort of reverse things and your body instantly begins to relax.

3. Face Your Fears
Confront your fears one by one, little by little. Make it a habit to do something you are just too anxious to face once in a while. Slowly, your fears will become so familiar that they won't exists anymore.

4. Build Your Social Circle

Spend more time with people you are comfortable with and challenge yourself when you're around them. It will be easier to confront your anxieties in that setting. From there, you will be able to see your phobia for the puff of smoke it is. 

5. Change your Lifestyle

Lifestyle does not play a central role in anxiety but it does contribute. What you eat, drink, and the chemicals you introduce into your body will have an impact on the emotional and physical signs of social phobia. 

  • Reduce your intake of caffeine
  • Try to get enough sleep
  • Avoid taking alcohol when faced with challenging social situations

Social phobia can take a serious toll on your life. And while dealing with the problem may seem impossible due to its deep mental roots, you can be free from it by taking these measures.