Social anxiety or phobia is a severe level of fear at when it comes to specific social situations that have unfamiliar or many people, or that you feel insecure about. Just thinking about these social situations can make someone become frightened and anxious if they are dealing with social anxiety. They will then go out of the way to avoid these situations, even at great cost.
With social anxiety, there is an underlying fear of being judged, becoming a public embarrassment and being scrutinized. You may have fear of what people will think of you and that, in comparison with other people, you will not measure up. You may feel you will be laughed at for making some social mistake or not responding in just the right way.
Although these thoughts are not rational and may be blown out of proportion if considered from a completely objective point of view, it is not easy for someone suffering from social anxiety to differentiate.
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Overcoming social anxiety can be a very difficult task without the right tools, especially when you have spent years developing your fears and worries. It may be like you almost “practiced” having the fears and anxiety, as the scenarios have run through your head so many times. A blackbelt in anxiety! Of course there are certain situations that can affect a person more adversely than others.
Some of these situations can be meeting new people, taking an exam, speaking to an unfamiliar person over the phone, becoming the center of attention, speaking publicly to a group of people, being criticized in a social situation, going on the first few dates with someone attractive, ordering food and eating in public, going to a party with more than 5 people or people who are unfamiliar, and making a comment during a meeting.
One way of overcoming social anxiety, is to drastically change your lifestyle and habits. Avoid or limit your caffeine intake as well as sodas and energy drinks. These are stimulants that heighten anxiety. Some methods of defeating social anxiety include continually working up to meeting with more and more unfamiliar people, eventually even approaching groups of strangers at a coffee house to start a conversation!
No matter the method used to overcome your anxiety, avoid excessive alcohol. Some folks may try to drink too much at a party or social gathering to try to calm your nerves and end up being drunk and looking foolish or even more anxious as a result of the alcohol.
Nicotine is also one of the most dominant stimulants for anxiety attacks. Smokers have a common experience of feeling more relaxed after smoking, but an examination of the chemical responses in the body reveals a different truth.
Get enough sleep. When you are deprived of sleep, you are at the most susceptible to being anxious. If you are going to a social gathering, adequate sleep is essential to help you to remain calm.
If your anxiety is severe, an antidepressant prescribed by a doctor can be helpful in overcoming social anxiety. Benzodiazepines medication can be beneficial, but can become addictive and as a sedative, it does not allow you to perform well in a social situation. Unfortunately the medications available carry some side effects with them, some of which can hurt your social abilities.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT) is a process that can help for overcoming social anxiety. The sufferer can learn how to physically control anxiety by practicing breathing exercises and relaxation techniques. Obviously this is not practical for everyone due to money concerns and having to make repeated trips to a therapist.
The therapist will challenge the sufferer from thinking negative thoughts that usually triggers social anxiety and help them to replace those thoughts with positive ones. Another behavioral technique is to face the social situations gradually and in a methodical way instead of avoiding the situations. A ‘bit by bit’ approach.
Social anxiety sufferers have the option to join a therapeutic group that consists of other individuals with the same problem. This setting allows them to open up about their fears and learn effective social skills to help in every day life. This can seem counterintuitive as group settings are a trigger for social anxiety, and may be too challenging for someone just setting out to overcome their social anxiety with the standard approaches.
By overcoming social anxiety, individuals can live a more productive life and form more rewarding relationships that in turn act as catalysts for further change and improvement.
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