Social anxiety/phobia affects up to 2.00% of the population of the U.K. or, to put it another way, about 1.5 million people. It centres on persistent and irrational fears of social situations where one may be exposed to judgment by others or by becoming the “centre of attention”. It may well be coupled with an intense fear of behaving in an embarrassing or humiliating way which can lead to avoidance of public contact/situations.
Like with all anxiety disorders, we’ve all experienced social anxiety. Whether it’s doing a presentation at work to meeting your idol, you have felt that pounding of your heart and a wave of panic washing over you. Now imagine feeling like this every day and living with that distress in your life permanently. That is social anxiety.
The symptoms of social anxiety can be split into four categories –
Cognitive (how we think) :
- Worrying about people looking at you
- Going over events again and again
- Thinking about how future situations will be horrific
Behavioural (how we behave) :
- Avoiding social occasions
- Speak fast, babble
- Avoiding answering the phone
Emotional (how we feel) :
- Feelings of anxiety and fear
- Low self-esteem
Physical (how we feel physically) :
- Symptoms of anxiety (heart racing, nausea, feeling faint)
- Mixing up your words or mind going totally blank
Social anxiety and shyness are very similar but shyness is not a defined disorder. If someone finds their shyness is associated with high levels of distress then a diagnosis of social anxiety is plausible. Safety behaviours such as rehearsing what to say, not answering the phone and always agreeing with superiors can be useful in the short term but just perpetuate the distress in the future.
Social anxiety is a fully treatable condition and can be overcome with the right treatment. Don’t know where your social anxiety comes from? That’s actually fine and will have no effect on treatment. Talking of therapy: CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is generally considered the best treatment which will include a variety of goals – from changing thinking styles to reducing self consciousness. Other elements that are targeted on are, self-focused attention, which makes you, feel more and more self conscious. The more you think about how you are coming across, the more you sweat and the more you sweat the more anxious you which leads to a vicious circle. Hypervigilance is also something to work on – being on your guard the entire time is exhausting and terrifying.
In conclusion, there is an effective treatment. If you are worried about seeing your doctor and not being able to get your message across, write a letter in advance for them to read.
The most important thing to remember is that there is HOPE! Recovery is possible.
- Know yourself from head to tail! Seriously though, if you can know how and when your anxiety is triggered (and your safety behaviours) then you’re halfway there.
- When the anxiety is roaring through you, use the No Panic Crisis Message – You can also listen to this as a recorded message, 24 hours a day on the telephone by calling 01952 680835.
- Regular relaxation can help reduce the occurrence of panic due to social anxiety along with cognitive behavioural therapy. Try mindfulness or yoga to get that deep relaxation.
- Make a list of things that you would like to do but is stopped by your social anxiety. You don’t have to jump straight into a wedding or a big party but a coffee with an old friend is an excellent start! You’re doing well!
- Use your CBT skills to identify unhelpful thoughts and remember how to deal with them.
How can No Panic help?
No Panic specialises in self-help recovery and our services include:
Providing people with the skills they need to manage their condition and work towards recovery.
Our aim is to give you all of the necessary advice, tools and support that you will need to recover and carry out this journey. No Panic Recovery Programs