Affecting an estimated seven percent of the U.S. population, social anxiety is a much bigger problem than most realize.
In fact, many people don’t even realize they have social anxiety.
For years, I just thought I was shy. Throughout my early school days, I had an intense fear of being judged by others and generally hated being around groups of people. Mind you, my case is mild and I’ve learned how to manage my anxiety, but it has still held me back in tangible ways.
If you consistently become anxious and uncomfortable in social settings, social anxiety could be the cause.
I have social anxiety.
– Dr. Dre
What does social anxiety look like?
Social anxiety is the fear of being judged by others along with the consequent embarrassment, depression, and feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, and self-consciousness that can come with it.
Social anxiety can appear in one of two forms:
An example of specific social anxiety is public speaking. You might do fine conversing in groups, but when faced with a big crowd when you’re on stage? Paralyzing.
However, with general social anxiety you become anxious in virtually all social settings from parties to networking, public speaking, and everything in between.
How can you tell if you have social anxiety?
There are several clear signs that you may have social anxiety. Think for a moment if you regularly experience great amounts of anxiousness and discomfort in any of the below situations:
- Being watched while you’re performing a task
- Meeting new people
- Having to speak in public
- Standing in a room full of strangers
Social anxiety has a variety of symptoms, however, these are the most common by far. If you experience intense anxiety, discomfort, nervousness, or similar feelings during any of the above situations, social anxiety may be holding you back from living your best life.
It’s also important to understand that real clinical anxiety can’t just be whisked away through overexposure. It doesn’t matter how many times you experience the above or similar social settings, you can’t build any sort of magical resistance to it through sheer force.
However, don’t fret, there’s a lot you can do to manage the symptoms of social anxiety and take control of the situation.
There are many paths to treating social anxiety, however, cognitive-behavioral therapy (or CBT) has been shown to be highly effective in several research studies.
CBT includes a wide-range of techniques:
- And cognitive tools such as ABCD model and dysfunctional thought record
To treat social anxiety, you need to adopt a comprehensive cognitive-behavioral therapy program. However, adopting a regular mindfulness meditation practice can get you started in the right direction while you search for a local CBT program that works for you.
That’s because mindfulness plays a key part in several areas of CBT training, from developing the skills of self-monitoring and evaluation like we mentioned above as well as other valuable cognitive skills.
However, again, a single technique isn’t enough to get a handle any form of anxiety (unless, of course, it’s minor). Here are a few other important elements that could help you work through it:
- Better understanding of social anxiety and how it works
- Awareness of your anxiety and when it affects you the most
- A support group: This isn’t required, however, if your social anxiety is severe, it could be a great boon.
- A long-term mindset towards treatment: CBT and other methods can take time, so you need to be patient and persistent
Ultimately, different strategies work better for certain people, so experiment to find what works best for you.