What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety is an increasingly common mental health care problem. People who suffer from social anxiety (also known as ‘social phobia’) fear interaction with other people. That can include situations that involve meeting new or important people, public speaking, having an audience, or any social encounters.
Individuals with social anxiety can feel intensely self-consciousness and worry about being judged and evaluated negatively. Others fear the anxiety symptoms brought on by social situations.
While it is common for people to feel nervous going into a new situation with unfamiliar faces, people who suffer from social anxiety have such a strong emotional response they may feel unable to cope, and so avoid any situations that might trigger those feelings.
Social anxiety can be crippling, affecting your work, home and social life. As social beings, we yearn for connection, and yet fear of social interactions can prevent us from forming the bonds we crave, leaving sufferers feeling isolated, inadequate, inferior, embarrassed, humiliated and depressed.
What are the symptoms of social anxiety?
Anxiety symptoms are part of the body’s fight-or-flight response, and can be physically as well as emotionally unpleasant. People often describe feeling sick in the stomach, having a racing heart or tightness in the chest, feeling dizzy or faint, they may experience trembling or shaking, sweating, and have difficulty breathing. A panic attack is an acute and intense anxiety response.
Public speaking and specific social anxiety
A person who suffers from specific social anxiety may feel confident and able to cope in most social situations, but experiences anxiety symptoms in one or more aspects of his or her life. A common example of a specific social anxiety is a fear of public speaking. This type of anxiety can have a significant impact, depending on the degree to which the sufferer can avoid the anxiety trigger. For instance, you may rarely be required to speak in public, so this fear doesn’t hold you back from day to day, but if your job requires you to deliver presentations or address an audience, a fear of public speaking may damage or limit your career.
Generalised social anxiety
A person with generalised social anxiety experiences symptoms in most social situations, from staff meetings to lunch dates, to outings and parties. They might avoid any situations that involve social interaction, or where they might draw others’ attention. Not only do sufferers miss social experiences, over time, their avoidance can damage existing relationships, and prevent new relationships forming.
Why social anxiety symptoms make the problem worse
Running away from what you fear may seem like the safest option; however, it can leave you feeling worse. People with social anxiety often experience guilt, shame, and embarrassment. They may beat themselves up for not coping better, and for not being able to talk themselves around. Knowing that your response isn’t rational doesn’t change it. Moreover, by avoiding what you fear, you miss the opportunity to discover and learn how you can cope in situations that have triggered your anxiety.
How to beat anxiety
The good news is, with the right help, it is possible to beat anxiety and overcome your fear. By taking a holistic and solution-focused approach, you aren’t simply masking symptoms, or providing temporary relief, but making lasting change. Whether you have specific anxiety, such as a fear of public speaking, generalised anxiety or social phobia, Christine can help you find the root cause of your symptoms, release underlying fears, shift negative beliefs and thought patterns, and provide access to the resources you need to cope more effectively in social situations. Call 0405 220 658 to start living your life again.