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4 Tips for dealing with social anxiety

 

social anxiety

 

4 Tips for dealing with social anxiety

Social anxiety is a common issue that affects millions of people. It can be quite debilitating and limit opportunities. People with social anxiety experience excessive nervousness when in the company of others and worry that they might humiliate themselves in some way or do/say something embarrassing. This ‘self focus’ only makes the problem worse.

Those with social anxiety are hypersensitive to criticism from others and worry about how they are coming across. They assume that others are likely to be evaluating them negatively. As a result, people with social anxiety tend to avoid social situations which allows the fears to grow and the social anxiety is reinforced.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a useful effective therapy for social anxiety as it challenges thoughts about social fears and what others might be thinking and also allows opportunities to test out theories by try out ‘behavioural experiments’. These help to test out predictions and minimise fears.

People with social anxiety tend to use ‘safety behaviours’. These are behaviours that help to reduce the anxiety in the short term but in the long term, they actually help to maintain the anxiety. Using safety behaviours prevents a person from learning healthier longer lasting coping skills. Safety behaviours comprise actions such as: staying in the background, avoiding eye contact, making regular trips to the bathroom or having some other type of ritual to cope in the immediate situation.

Safety behaviours can result in ‘self fulfilling’ prophecies. For example, if we stay quiet in a social situation, we may come across as distant and thereby be ignored by others as we  are coming across as unapproachable. This will then reinforce our thoughts that no one likes us and that we are terrible in social situations.

Challenging social anxiety:

  1. Less self focus

Practise focusing externally rather than being overly concerned with yourself. When we feel socially anxious we focus on whether we are blushing or imagine that our nervousness is easy to notice which makes us feel even more anxious. Make an effort to focus your attention on others rather than on yourself.

2. Use approach behaviour

Instead of withdrawing and avoiding, it is essential to start taking small steps towards being around others. The more time we spend with others socially, the more our anxiety will diminish.

3. Challenge negative anxious thoughts

We often tend to ‘mind read’, assuming we know what others are thinking. This is irrational though because unless we ask, we don’t really know what others are thinking. When dealing with clients with social anxiety, they have told me they think others are noticing their imperfections or perceived flaws. Often, they are projecting their own insecurities onto others. For example – if they think they have bad teeth, they will assume others are noticing their teeth and thinking how awful they are. The reality could be completely different. Actually, we are all quite egocentric, in that we are all quite focused on ourselves and so when we assume others are focused on us, they probably aren’t at all.

Always ask if there is evidence to believe a certain thought. Often there won’t be.

4. Reduce safety behaviours

Make a list of safety behaviours such as: I stand in the kitchen at parties; I never talk unless someone speaks to me first, I make regular trips to the bathroom, I avoid social gatherings altogether…

The  rate each behaviour out of 10 in terms of how anxious it might make you feel

The start with the items lower on the list – the 1’s, 2’s and 3’s out of ten – use this behavioural hierarchy to start confronting safety behaviours.

Try talking to someone first, rate your anxiety before and after (out of 10) and then make a not of what you predicted might happen (they would laugh and walk away) and what actually happened (the person spoke to me briefly)..in this way we begin to challenge and remove out fears and pre existing thoughts about social situations.

We all experience anxiety, some of us are just better at covering it up. Getting out there and confronting our social anxiety is the best way forward. Social anxiety can be over come.

Mandy X

Social Phobia

 

Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) is a persistent, irrational fear about social situations and being around people. It’s one of the most common anxiety disorders.

Much more than just “shyness”, social anxiety disorder causes intense, overwhelming fear over what may just be an everyday activity like shopping or speaking on the phone. People affected by it may fear doing or saying something they think will be humiliating. They are intensely aware of how others might be perceiving them and tend to feel as if everyone is specifically watching and judging them.

Social anxiety disorder disrupts normal life, interfering with social relationships and quality of life, and impairing performance at work or school.

It’s generally more common in women than men and often starts in adolescence, or sometimes as early as childhood. If you think you may have social anxiety disorder, don’t be afraid to see your GP. It is a recognised condition that can be effectively treated.

The signs of social anxiety disorder

Children: Crying, remaining silent and withdrawn or have tantrums. They may fear going to school and participating in class and school performances.

Teens and adults with social anxiety disorder may fear activities such as:

meeting strangers

interacting with authority figures

talking in groups or starting conversations

talking on the phone

eating or drinking with company

They may also exhibit behaviour indicating low self esteem and feel insecure about themselves and being in relationships. They may be overly sensitive to be judged and avoid eye contact, along with other shy body language. They may turn to alcohol or drugs to help them deal with the anxiety and be more confident in social settings

Sometimes, the fear and anxiety of a social situation can build up to a panic attack, a period of usually just a few minutes when the person feels an overwhelming sense of fear, apprehension and anxiety. There may be physical symptoms too, such as feeling sick, sweating, trembling and having heart palpitations. These symptoms can be frightening but they don’t cause any physical harm.

What are the causes?

We don’t really know what causes social anxiety disorder, but it is likely to involve a combination of factors. Genes may play a role.

Also, the behaviour of parents may have an influence on whether their child will develop social anxiety disorder. According to Anxiety UK, people with the disorder have described their parents as:

  • overprotective
  • not affectionate enough
  • constantly criticising them and worrying they may do something wrong
  • overemphasising the importance of manners and grooming
  • exaggerating the danger of approaching strangers

 

Treating social anxiety disorder in adults

Cognitive behavioural therapy is one of the most effective types of treatment for social anxiety disorder. You’ll be offered individual CBT specially developed for social anxiety disorder, which is usually 14 sessions over approximately four months.

Generally, CBT works by helping you identify unhelpful and unrealistic beliefs and behavioural patterns. You and your therapist work together to change your behaviour and replace unhelpful beliefs with more realistic and balanced ones.

CBT teaches you new skills and helps you understand how to react more positively to situations that would usually cause you anxiety.

Your therapy sessions may include education about social anxiety, video feedback to correct distorted views of yourself, and behavioural exercises and experiments.

Supported self-help

If you wish to try a different psychological therapy to CBT, you may be offered supported self-help. You may, for example, be offered a CBT-based book or computer programme to try over three to four months.

Learn more about self help therapy

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy allows you to look deeper into your problems and worries and deal with troublesome habits and a wide range of mental disorders. Interpersonal psychotherapy aims to link social anxiety to relationship problem areas and address these.

Short-term psychotherapy for social anxiety disorder aims to improve your social skills, among other things, and encourage you to face feared social situations outside therapy sessions.

Ways to deal wit social phobia:

1) Watch your breathing and body language. Learn to relax.

2) Monitor negative thinking. Paying attention to negative thinking can cause anxiety to spiral out of control. CBT techniques are useful in helping with this

3) Face your fears – it is important to ACT and challenge your fears. The more you believe your thinking and don’t try to act against it, the more the fear grows

4) Nurture relationships. Start online, interact on forums. Spend time outdoors in public areas..get used to being around others and engaging with others to improve your confidence

 

Many people get nervous or self-conscious on occasion, like when giving a speech or interviewing for a new job. But social anxiety, or social phobia, is more than just shyness or occasional nerves. With social anxiety disorder, your fear of embarrassing yourself is so intense that you avoid situations that can trigger it. But no matter how painfully shy you may be and no matter how bad the butterflies, you can learn to be comfortable in social situations and reclaim your life.

Mandy x