Tag Archives: social anxiety

How to manage social anxiety


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How to manage social anxiety

Individual’s who suffer from social anxiety or social phobia fear negative evaluations from others. Due to this preoccupation with how others perceive them, they tend to focus excessively on themselves. The more we focus on ourselves, the more anxious we actually become. Sadly, avoidance of social situations often results in the social phobia being maintained.

It perfectly normal to feel somewhat nervous and tense when we find ourselves in an unfamiliar social situations. Everyone thinks at times “how am I doing?”. However, if you have social anxiety, these thoughts are magnified. The possibility of embarrassing yourself may seem like a full-blown catastrophe. The fear is so great that you start to isolate yourself and withdraw from others.

For every 50 people at a party, there is a good chance that at least 20 of them are feeling at least some discomfort and perhaps five people are feeling intense levels of anxiety.

Social anxiety involves worrying ahead of time -this is called the anticipatory phase. During social exposure, underlying negative beliefs about yourself and other people are activated. If you’re socially anxious, you automatically think other people notice your anxiety and that they are making negative judgements about your behaviour and wondering what is wrong with you. This leads to a lot of self focus.

What to do about social anxiety

Learn to correct the negative thoughts and beliefs in the anticipatory phase. Catastrophizing about a future event only makes matters worse. This type of exaggerated thinking causes intense anxiety and will make you feel defeated even before you begin.

Make an effort to face your fear and socialise more often. Start small and work your way up. The more you avoid, the more the fear will persist. When you are socialising it is important to focus externally. This takes practice but it reduces anxiety enormously. Focus on a person who looks interested in what you have to say.

Eliminate safety behaviours, by this I mean find out what behaviours you engage in to make you feel less anxious. Good examples are: looking down, mumbling, having a drink, repeatedly clearing your throat or making regular trips to the bathroom. These safety behaviours only increase self focus and end up maintaining anxiety. Work towards reducing these safety behaviours, one at a time…baby steps.

Overcoming social anxiety will take time and the main thing to focus on is less avoidance and more external focus. Throughout this process, be kind to yourself and give yourself credit when you make progress. Connecting with others doesn’t have to be a fearful experience, it can also be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding.

Mandy X

Are you approachable?


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Are you approachable?

Do you ever think about how you are coming across to others? There can be times when we are giving off negative body language to others but are not aware of this. Often, negative body language comes from what we are thinking about. If we are self conscious and self focused, we may feel stressed and this will show in our body language.

Cognitive behavioural therapy deals with many issues and among those is social anxiety, also known as social phobia. When we suffer from social anxiety, we are often plagued by self doubt and worry too much about what others think of us. We focus on how we are coming across and this self focus ends up making us feel even more anxious. Ironically, when we care too much about being liked and/or being popular, we can end up making the situation worse for ourselves by placing too much pressure on our behaviour.

An analogy that helps my clients is to ask them to think about a row of shops. If you are walking down a street full of shops, you will be unlikely to enter into a shop that looks as if it is closed, has the door closed or has the shutters down etc

On the other hand, a shop that has the door open and looks inviting is more likely to get interest from passers by. I call this “shop open” and “shop shut” body language. Regularly monitor yourself to see whether you are giving off approachable “shop open” body language or unfriendly “shop closed” body language. Shop open body language consists of:

smiling, making eye contact, shoulders back etc

Sadly, when we are shy or feel anxious socially, our thoughts tend to be anxious in nature and this affects our body language negatively. What ends up happening is known as a self fulfilling prophecy – the very thing we fear comes true. If you feel anxious, try focusing on something external instead of  focusing on yourself. This is a great trick to lessen anxiety  in social situations. Focus on others, find out more about them…

In the future, remind yourself to give off “shop open” body language and you will immediately see a change in how people treat you and communicate with you.

Mandy X

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

unsociable teenagers

Unsociable Teenagers

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Unsociable Teenagers

Is your teenager unsociable? Do they not seem bothered about seeing their peers out of school?  There is no need to worry. Many parents ask me whether they should be concerned about their teenagers who seem to prefer their own company than going out with their friends. Parents who are sociable worry the most as they expect their offspring to be the same as them. Here is some advice on how to handle your unsociable teenager:

1) Assess Whether There is an Underlying Problem

More often than not, teenagers that prefer the comfort of home to spending time with their peers are completely normal. If they truly seem happy at home and don’t appear motivated to be out socialising, it’s time to stop worrying. If however, they seem to be lacking in social skills and seem unable to converse with others, there could possibly more going on here. There is also the possibility of being bullied at school. If they seem unable to read others emotionally and behave inappropriately in social settings, seeing a counsellor might be beneficial. There may be nothing wrong and it could all be down to a developmental phase but I am just covering all the ‘bases’! It’s important to know the difference between an unsociable teenagers that is struggling with social skills and one that just isn’t all that interested in socialising.

2) Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Make a habit of chatting to your teenager regularly. Find out what is happening at school and show an interest in what they enjoy doing. Being involved in your teenager’s development will enable you to be more aware of any issues that may crop up. It’s also important for teens to know that they can approach their parents if something is worrying them.

3) Be Non-Judgemental

Teenagers are going through all sorts of changes. They are not children anymore but not yet adults. Their hormones are all over the place and they are figuring out who they are. There is also huge peer pressure to fit in and not be different in any way or do anything that singles them out for humiliation or embarrassment. Be approachable and take the time to listen before coming to a conclusion. The more judgemental you are, the less likely your teens will be to confide in you. Be open minded and remind yourself that you were once a confused, untidy, secretive teenager.

4) Separate Your Issues from their Issues

I see so many parents who project their own paranoia, needs and wants onto their kids. They want them to be more like this or behave more like that. In a sense – this is sending a message that your children are not good enough as they are. That they need to change in order to be ‘acceptable’ to their parents. I have witnessed many parents berate their unsociable teenagers for “not being sociable enough” or “not being sporty enough” and instead of helping, this has only alienated their teens from them. Always act in the best interests of your children, not in your own best interests – there is a huge difference. If they are happy, leave them alone.

5) Foster Independence

Of course, there is that fine line between allowing your teenagers too much freedom which inhibits them from learning necessary life skills. Teens are notorious for being lazy, unmotivated and self centred. This type of behaviour won’t get them very far in the ‘real world’. Teach them empathy and teach them to be considerate of others. Our job as parents is to create, as far as possible, a well balanced person that can go out and function in the big wide world. Think for themselves and make good choices. Respect your teenagers natural inclinations (shy vs sociable; calm vs anxious) but try to bring out the best in them by pushing their boundaries to help them learn and develop skills.

Modern technology allows for people to be far more sociable from home than ever before. Social media and online gaming via XBox or PlayStation mean more teenagers get to chat to others from the comfort of their own homes. Of course, everything should be in moderation but it’s worth mentioning that the opportunities for socialising are far greater now than ever before. The more we nurture our children and offer them choices and experiences in life, the easier it will be for them to know what they like and dislike. Work within their natural limits and never push your own issues onto them. Ask yourself what your motivation is behind wanting them to do something. Is it for their own good or is it to make yourself feel better? Respect the “raw materials” and work with what you have rather than trying to make a ‘square into a circle’. This way, you’ll end up with a grounded, balanced adult with their self esteem in tact!

Mandy X


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