We all feel anxious from time to time, sometimes to a point that it becomes really uncomfortable. This can be because we are expecting life changing news, are face in a situation where we could embarrass ourselves, because we have to do something difficult or any other situation. However, with some people, this normal anxiety and nervousness becomes something else altogether, which is the debilitating condition known as social anxiety. This goes far beyond regular worry and a dose of fear. People with social anxiety actively avoid social situations. Unfortunately, as much as we have started to map the brain and understand mental illness, breaking the stigma of having such a diagnosis, social anxiety is one of the least understood disorders in existence. In fact, the majority of people who suffer from it do not get diagnosed, and if they do, they are simply prescribed medication. Other options are out there as well, and it is important to remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that it doesn’t need to be a chemically induced light.
The Case Against Medicating
Because social anxiety is such an unknown disorder, medical professionals are quick to prescribe a variety of drugs, such as somabien, seredyn, amoryn and more, including the ever popular prozac. However, more and more people are now coming to understand that using drugs to treat these types of disorders is like providing a sticky plaster. It may mask the problem itself, but it doesn’t actually cure it. Furthermore, the side effects of these drugs are tremendous. Did you know, for instance, that prozac (often prescribed to people with depression leading to suicidal tendencies) can lead to suicidal thoughts? Drugs are not the answer, not in the least because they are designed only to feed the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies.
The Hidden Facts
More often than not, social anxiety starts during childhood. As life progresses and the problem is not addressed, it becomes more and more severe. During adolescence in particular, the problem becomes even more prominent, as this is a period during which teenagers feel even more self-conscious and awkward. This must be overcome before regular anxiety turns into a full blown phobia.
“Usually teenager may be shy, timid or got stage fright. Some even develop performance anxiety and public speaking anxiety. This is also known as social phobia. If it gets extreme, worst, persistent and disabling, it can be considered as social anxiety disorder.”
What Is Social Anxiety?
So how do you recognize the difference between feeling nervous and a full social anxiety? Firstly, there are a number of physical effects, such as trembling, sweating, racing heartbeats, fainting and blushing. People with social anxiety actively avoid situations where they feel they will meet with other people’s disapproval. This leads to a vicious cycle that often ends in full agoraphobia, meaning people no longer leave the house at all.
We know that there are millions of people who are affected by social anxiety, both directly and indirectly. Living with or caring for someone with social anxiety is very difficult as well. Once the lives of people become significantly affected, such as no longer being able to communicate with others or no longer being able to leave the house, a real problem exists that needs resolving.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
There are a few things to remember above all else. Firstly, human beings are social animals. Our hierarchy of needs includes social capital. Also, anxiety in itself is not a bad thing. It is a healthy and normal response to difficult situations that is designed to help us survive danger. Anxiety – and nerves – help us to make better decisions. However, once we become anxious of normal situations, it is time to look for help.
Therapy and Treatment
There are many options out there to treat social anxiety disorder. We have discussed the pharmaceutical option and divulged why this should be avoided if at all possible. A lot of these side effects, including tremors, difficulty sleeping, impotence, headaches, weight gain, constipation and so on, get worse as you continue to take the medication. Luckily, other treatment options are out there as well, and there are plenty of self-help solutions to choose from too.
What matters with social anxiety is that you identify what the triggers for your anxiety are. These are always thoughts within your mind, not situations to which you are exposed. For instance, you may feel uncomfortable in a restaurant because you worry you will spill food on yourself and embarrass yourself. The trigger is not actually being in a restaurant, but the thought of embarrassing yourself. It is about identifying your triggers and working with those.
“The next step is to analyze and challenge them. It helps to ask yourself questions about the negative thoughts: “Do I know for sure that I’m going to blow the presentation?” or “Even if I’m nervous, will people necessarily think I’m incompetent?” Through this logical evaluation of your negative thoughts, you can gradually replace them with more realistic and positive ways of looking at social situations that trigger your anxiety.”
There are a number of unhelpful thinking styles that most people with social anxiety disorders engage in. Firstly, they believe themselves to be mind readers, believing that they know what others think of them. Secondly, they think they can tell the future, in the full belief that they already know what is going to happen. Thirdly, they catastrophize, blowing things out of proportion. Lastly, they personalize, believing that they are the center of everybody’s attention. Break these four negative thinking styles, and your social anxiety will reduce and eventually go. You can do this through self-help, or by seeking professional help, including CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy).
“In addition to CBT, other psychological treatments have also been found effective in the treatment of social anxiety. These include cognitive therapy (a form of CBT), social skills training alone, relaxation exercises, exposure therapy alone, behavioral therapy, and some other types of less-practiced forms of psychotherapy.”