If you frequently experience social anxiety, you may be wondering how to manage the symptoms or identify causes of the disorder to improve your quality of life. Social anxiety can impact you in all areas of your life, from school or work to how you interact with friends and family. If you frequently find yourself dreading or avoiding social situations for no obvious reason, it might be time to talk to a professional about social anxiety disorder treatment options.
What Is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety, sometimes called social phobia, is a common issue that often appears in the teenage years. It’s defined as a long-term fear of social interactions and social settings that may prevent you from engaging in social situations. The fear can stem from worry that you’ll embarrass yourself through bodily functions like sweating or having to go to the bathroom during a presentation. You may also fear that people will notice your anxiety and point it out to others.
How Common Is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is fairly common in the United States, with approximately 12.1% of adults experiencing the disorder at some point in their lives. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a 2017 study showed 7.1% of American adults had experienced social anxiety within the past 12 months.
Three Symptoms of Social Anxiety
If you’re unsure whether your dread of social situations is rooted in social anxiety, consider whether you experience any of these three symptoms of social anxiety before or during an engagement:
- Not making eye contact with other people when talking to them
- Physical reaction to social interactions (sweating, blushing or shaking)
- Intense nerves that make you feel physically ill
If these experiences are familiar to you, you likely live with social anxiety. You may want to talk to your doctor or a mental heath professional about ways to manage the disorder.
Causes of Social Anxiety
There are many potential causes of social anxiety, with the disorder stemming from a combination of genetic predisposition and negative social experiences at a young age. For most people with social anxiety disorder, symptoms appear around age 13, when the person is entering their teenage years. This is an age when kids may have already experienced bullying, teasing or even abuse in their home life and/or at school.
Rejection, humiliation and ridicule can all lead to a child or teenager developing symptoms of social anxiety in response to these traumatic social situations. Their fear of social settings becomes a way to protect themselves from feeling these negative emotions again. Family conflict and other traumatic experiences are also often associated with social anxiety disorder.
Managing Social Anxiety on Your Own
Can you self-treat social anxiety? In some cases, managing social anxiety on your own is sufficient. If you’re wondering how to get rid of social anxiety, though, there’s no easy way. Knowing what triggers social anxiety in you is often the first step to altering your response to these triggers. Most people require professional social anxiety disorder treatment in the form of psychotherapy or social anxiety medication in order to see the desired results.
However, if you feel your social anxiety is manageable and not interfering with your quality of life, you can find some ways to independently reduce the symptoms you experience.
Use the “Yes, But” Technique
One method self-managing social anxiety is to use the “yes, but” technique for re-framing negative thoughts. If your internal dialogue of negativity and fear is increasing your anxiety at a social event, challenge those thoughts in this format. For example, “Yes, I have to give a speech, and everyone will be watching me. But I rehearsed, I know the words and everyone here wants me to succeed.”
Sometimes, just putting a positive spin on the negative dialogue in your head can ease your anxiety and help you move forward.
Do Something Nice for Someone Else
Social anxiety causes the individual to spend a lot of time in their own mind, focusing on themselves. It becomes easy to assume everyone is looking at you, focusing on you and judging you when that’s exactly what you’re doing to yourself. Flip the script and turn that focus outwards at your next social event.
Rather than spending so much time thinking about what others may say or think about you, use that energy to do something nice for someone else. Pay them a compliment, offer to get them a drink from the bar or hold open a door for them. The positive reaction you receive creates a better social experience for you and helps you focus on another person rather than your current fears.
Get Physical Exercise Daily
Daily exercise is one of the key tools for managing anxiety of any kind. Exercising can improve your mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, plus it boosts your self-confidence. Staying active is critical to managing your social anxiety disorder long-term.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting sufficient sleep each night is also an important part of managing your mental health. Exercise helps with sleep when you have anxiety as well. Deep sleep is necessary for the brain to rejuvenate and support lower levels of emotional reactivity.
When to Seek Professional Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment
A mental health professional can offer an official diagnosis based on the The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses, or DSM-5, which is the American Psychiatric Association’s guide for these conditions.
The social anxiety disorder DSM-5 criteria for a diagnosis are:
- You have excessive anxiety that’s disproportionate to the situation.
- Your distress levels interfere with your daily life.
- The anxiety you experience has no other, better explanation.
- The anxiety is persistent and intense, centering on social situations where you fear judgment, embarrassment or humiliation.
- You avoid social situations or experience anxiety during them.
If your social anxiety disorder meets these criteria, it’s time to contact a professional psychologist, psychotherapist or psychiatrist for support. Treatment options range from cognitive behavioral therapy to medication for social anxiety.
How Restore Can Help
At Restore Mental Health in Florida, we can provide you with the support and treatment necessary to improve your quality of life and manage social anxiety. Contact our compassionate team of counselors today and find out how our inpatient or outpatient programs can work for you.