Sometimes, even the bravest among us worry about being subjected to public scrutiny. But for some individuals, this fear will sometimes escalade to paranoid intensities. In this case, the patient is often diagnosed with social anxiety, also known as social phobia.
If you think you’re suffering from this form of anxiety disorder, this article should provide you some perspective. Rest assured, social phobia is curable.
No matter how awkward and detached you may feel at this point, you can overcome this problem and its limitations. It will likely be much easier than you imagine.
What is social anxiety?
Humans are social creatures. We all like passing judgment on others, and often we do it quite naturally. As such, dealing with fellow humans is often a source of pressure and stress.
In healthy individuals, this type of stress may actually cause good results. On-going social pressure will challenge you to put your best foot forward and strive to surpass expectations. Peer pressure will make you deliver a superior performance. It will entice you to exert your best efforts.
However, if you suffer from social anxiety, any kind of pressure will likely make you fold, and there’s nothing you can do about it – not directly, at least.
While afflicted with social phobia, you will tend to:
- Feel inordinately anxious with the prospect of social interaction
- Be extremely apprehensive with the idea of being scrutinized by others
- Compulsively avoid situations that might force you out of your comfort zone
If you can relate with some of these symptoms of social anxiety disorder, you may assume it’s just a phase. Sometimes just waiting it out could do the trick, right? Not necessarily. Most patients who suffer from social phobia tend to get progressively more detached from society. When left to their own devices, they don’t usually come around and get better naturally. As such, if you’re serious about feeling “normal”, you should actively look for a treatment.
Who suffers from social anxiety?
While anyone can suffer from this form of anxiety disorder, around 60-65% of patients any given year are women. Usually, this disorder surfaces in early adulthood, and the majority of patients will suffer its effects for a decade before they decide to look for treatment..
If you think you may have a form of social phobia, we urge you to see a therapist for a proper diagnosis. There’s a good chance you’re “rowing against the tide”, especially about social interactions. There’s a good chance your life is much harder than it has to be.
If your social anxiety is left unchecked, it could lead to:
- Increased (eventually absolute) detachment from friends and family
- Feelings of discomfort just thinking about the idea of talking to strangers
- Eventually, you could become completely reclusive and stop going out
Can you imagine how amazing your existence might be without the burden of social anxiety?
Do you want your state of mind to fell naturally care-free and relaxed?
Then by all means, we hope you’re feeling inspired to change your life around. You are not alone in your suffering. There are many support groups out there, many great therapists, and lots of techniques you can learn to manage your discomfort in social situations.
What treatments have proven effective?
As with other forms of anxiety disorder, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) has proven time and time again to be the best treatment option available for social anxiety.
As you may know, CBT is one of the most successful and mainstream psychotherapies available. Thousands of psychologists rely on it to help patients understand how their feelings and thoughts interfere with their behaviors.
The major difficulty in overcoming social phobia isn’t actually the treatment in itself. The real problem is how the majority of patients only check in with a therapist when they feel utterly hopeless and broken.
While it’s never too late to fix social phobia, you must keep in mind that with early interventions, treatments are much simpler, more effective and less challenging.
As such, there really is no reason to allow your feelings of inadequacy to escalate to a point where you are perpetually fearful that you can no longer function normally on a social level.
There is no reason to let social phobia control your life. This is a treatable psychological condition, and treating it will significantly improve your life quality and enjoyment.
Further reading to help you understand Social Anxiety Disorder
In a scientific study by Mansell et al, some interesting conclusions have been achieved that helped therapists better understand patients suffering from social phobia. The main finding of this study was that “high socially anxious individuals show an attention bias away from emotional faces (positive and negative)”, but only in conditions of “social-evaluative threat”.
In simple terms, it suggests that people suffering from social phobia don’t develop this fear just because they perceive negative emotions as a threat.
The research suggests that social phobics experience tension when confronted with any expression of emotions, even if it’s positive – provided there’s a social or evaluative context. Meaning that people who suffer from social phobia are not just afraid of being judged. The other reason could be that they’re apprehensive towards interacting with other people.
Does that sound like something you usually experience? If so, then you should consult with a therapist because that will be your best chance for a quick recovery. But if you’re not quite ready for that yet, no worries. You have plenty of reading to do around here and techniques to learn that will help you get started on your path to feeling normal again.
Mansell, W; David, MC; Ehlers, A; Chen, Y. (1999) Social Anxiety and Attention away from Emotional Faces. Cognition and Emotion 6, 673-690