Tag Archives: social phobia

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

Overtime online can lead to depression

 

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Ingo Berghardt – Homework on the beach

Overtime online can lead to depression

The online world vs physical world

It’s quite common to be addicted to your computer or laptop. So many of us watch TV whilst looking at our laptops. It makes us feel as if we are combining leisure time plus being productive at the same time. I believe we are conditioned to feel that we should always be doing something worthwhile in order to feel we are valued members of society. How often do you catch yourself googling something you don’t know about, or catching up on Twitter or Facebook? We live in an information age where we are overloaded daily by news and it can cause us to feel overwhelmed.

When we spend too much time online, we can get sucked into a virtual world that can slowly but deliberately shift us off track. In the physical world we can begin to unwittingly isolate ourselves in favour of our online world. This is a dangerous move and if we don’t keep a balance we will end up so far off track that we end up anxious and possibly depressed.

True happiness comes from face to face interactions and sharing life moments together. When we feel connected and bonded it allows us to feel alive and involved. This experience can never be fully recreated online. Being online though is easy and safe…we can control how we present ourselves. In reality we could have ‘mad professor’ hair that hasn’t seen a brush in a while and still be snug in our pj’s whilst sending business emails (I know I’m guilty). The online world helps us feel more in control. The long term effects of our burgeoning online society however might possibly be a society where we become more isolated from each other. Where we spend extended periods of time without physically interacting with others which will affect our social effficacy and confidence. This will serve to reinforce the emerging pattern of reduced physical contact from others.

What you can do:

Be aware of how much time you spend online and ensure that you balance time online with seeing others face to face.

Arrange regular face-to-face meetings with others – friends, family, colleagues.

Realise that the online world cannot replace the physical world in terms of social experiences.

Many social cues are limited online. Spending too much time online can diminish your social skills and make you more reluctant to socialise. It becomes a dangerous self-perpetuating cycle.

Get out the house more – go for a walk, go shopping…make sure you keep perspective on your online world can offer you.

Create clear boundaries between work and home, especially if you work from home and spend a lot of time online.

Never allow the online world to replace needs that you would normally have filled through the physical world. For example – online relationships (long distance relationships or relationships where there is mostly online contact). Social relationships on Facebook. There is a chance that we can end up deluding ourselves if we become too attached to the online world – especially if our physical world is lacking in terms of personal relationships.

A happy life consists of balance. Modern technology will keep marching on and the better we get at handling and balancing this, the more successful and happy we will be.

Mandy X

 

 

Photo by Spree2010