How to Overcome Social Anxiety?

Vasantha Priya

17 April 2024

9 Mins

What is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, is more than just feeling shy or nervous in social settings. It's a pervasive fear of judgment, embarrassment, or rejection in social situations, leading to avoidance or extreme discomfort. It can manifest as physical symptoms like sweating, trembling, or rapid heartbeat, making social interactions feel overwhelming and daunting.

It’s hard for you to suffer alone, and it can feel like the whole world is against you. But, know that 4% of the world’s population suffers from one or the other anxiety, and at this moment when you think you’re alone, several people from different corners of the world share your feelings, and are figuring out how to get rid of social anxiety.

The condition is fairly common, and there are several things you can start doing, baby steps, to improve your mental wellbeing. This blog will take you through how to overcome social anxiety and sort out your questions.

Social Anxiety vs Social Anxiety Disorder

AspectSocial AnxietySocial Anxiety Disorder
NatureA common experience of feeling nervous or self-conscious in social situationsMental health conditions are characterized by an overwhelming fear of social situations
SeverityGenerally mild to moderate, varies from person to personModerate to severe, significantly impacts daily life
DurationOccasional and situational, may be temporaryPersistent and chronic, lasting for months or years
TriggersSpecific situations such as public speaking, meeting new people, or being the center of attentionSocial interactions in general, including everyday interactions with people
Fear LevelModerate discomfort or nervousnessIntense and overwhelming fear of social situations
Avoidance BehaviorOccasional avoidance of certain social situationsFrequent and extreme avoidance of social situations
Physical SymptomsMild physical symptoms such as blushing, sweating, trembling, or shaky voiceModerate to severe physical symptoms including rapid heartbeat, nausea, dizziness, or panic attacks
Impact on LifeMild interference with social activitiesSignificant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning
IsolationThis may lead to occasional social isolationCan lead to significant social isolation and withdrawal from social activities

What Causes Social Anxiety?

What causes social anxiety?

Genetics

Like many mental health conditions, social anxiety can have a genetic component. People with a family history of anxiety disorders may be more likely to develop social anxiety themselves. It’s not unusual, but it’s not common either.

It may vary from case to case. But, if there’s a history of anxiety or mental health issues either in the family or if you’ve had a few problems in the early part of life, there’s a good chance that a slight trigger might exacerbate the issues and bring about social anxiety.

Environmental Factors

Childhood experiences, such as trauma, bullying, or neglect, can increase the risk of developing social anxiety. Negative social experiences can also contribute to the development of social anxiety later in life.

It may not show up immediately, but these experiences find their way into your subconscious and resurface as social anxiety, attachment styles, or other mental health issues that keep you on hyper-alert mode whenever you sense a possible threat to your safety. Just remember that your mind isn’t against you, it’s trying its best to protect you from what it conceives to be dangerous for you, based on its experience. Knowing this is important to treat yourself with compassion when you’re trying to decipher how to overcome social anxiety.

Cognitive Factors

Negative thought patterns, such as perfectionism or a fear of failure, can contribute to social anxiety. People with social anxiety may have unrealistic expectations of themselves or worry excessively about what others think of them.

Social Learning

Observing others' behaviors and reactions in social situations can influence the development of social anxiety. If a person grows up in an environment where social interactions are perceived as threatening or negative, they may learn to fear social situations themselves.

Personality Traits

Certain personality traits, such as shyness, introversion, or low self-esteem, may predispose a person to develop social anxiety. These traits can make social interactions more challenging and increase the likelihood of developing anxiety.

Neurobiology

Differences in brain structure and function, particularly in areas of the brain involved in processing emotions and social cues, may contribute to social anxiety. These differences can affect how a person perceives and responds to social situations.

Signs and Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder

Signs and symptoms of Social Anxiety

Living with social anxiety disorder can have a significant impact on your life. It can affect your relationships, work, and overall well-being. People with SAD, and thinking about how to overcome social anxiety may struggle to form and maintain friendships, have difficulty advancing in their careers due to fear of social interactions, and may experience feelings of loneliness or isolation.

1. Intense Fear of Social Situations

Individuals with SAD experience overwhelming fear or anxiety in social situations. This can include situations such as public speaking, meeting new people, or attending social gatherings. The fear is often disproportionate to the actual threat posed by the situation, leading to significant distress, and difficulty overcoming social anxiety.

2. Physical Symptoms

Social anxiety can manifest physically, with symptoms including sweating, trembling, blushing, rapid heartbeat, nausea, or feeling dizzy or lightheaded. These physical symptoms can be distressing and can exacerbate the individual's anxiety in social situations, and prove to be almost impossible when figuring out how to deal with social anxiety.

3. Avoidance of Social Situations

To cope with their anxiety, individuals with SAD may go to great lengths to avoid social situations that trigger their fear. This can include avoiding social gatherings, turning down invitations, or making excuses to leave early. While avoidance may provide temporary relief, it can also lead to social isolation and further exacerbate anxiety over time.

4. Fear of Being Judged or Humiliated

One of the core fears of SAD is the fear of being judged, criticized, or humiliated in social situations. This fear can be debilitating and can lead to feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem. Individuals with SAD may constantly worry about how others perceive them, leading to increased anxiety in social interactions.

5. Difficulty Making Eye Contact

People with SAD may have difficulty making eye contact or may avoid eye contact altogether in social situations. This can stem from a fear of being scrutinized or judged by others. Avoiding eye contact can also be a way to cope with feelings of discomfort or anxiety in social interactions.

6. Self-Consciousness

Individuals with SAD often feel excessively self-conscious or insecure in social settings. They may constantly worry about how they are perceived by others, leading to feelings of inferiority or self-doubt. This self-consciousness can make social interactions challenging and can contribute to the avoidance of social situations.

7. Difficulty Speaking

Social anxiety can make it difficult for individuals to speak or express themselves in social situations. They may experience a fear of saying the wrong thing or of being judged for their words. This can lead to awkward or stilted conversations, as individuals with SAD may struggle to find the right words or may avoid speaking altogether, and makes it all the more difficult to figure out how to overcome social anxiety fast.

8. Physical Symptoms in Social Situations

In addition to the psychological symptoms of anxiety, individuals with SAD may experience physical symptoms when faced with social situations. These can include sweating, trembling, or blushing, which can be visible to others and can further contribute to feelings of embarrassment or self-consciousness.

How to Overcome Social Anxiety: 10 Tips

How to overcome Social Anxiety

1. Understand Your Anxiety

Overcoming social anxiety starts by understanding its nature and how it affects you personally. Educate yourself about the symptoms, triggers, and treatment options for social anxiety disorder (SAD). By gaining a deeper understanding of your anxiety, you can develop strategies to manage it more effectively. Consider keeping a journal to track your thoughts, feelings, and triggers, which can help you identify patterns and develop coping mechanisms, which is one of the most effective tips for social anxiety.

2. Practice Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness can help calm your mind and body in stressful social situations. Regular practice of these techniques can reduce overall anxiety levels and help you feel more confident in social settings.

3. Gradual Exposure

Gradual exposure to social situations that trigger your anxiety can help desensitize you to them over time. Start by exposing yourself to mildly anxiety-provoking situations and gradually work your way up to more challenging ones. This approach, known as exposure therapy, can help you build confidence and reduce your fear of social situations.

4. Improve Social Skills

Building social skills can help you feel more comfortable and confident in social situations. Practice active listening, maintaining eye contact, and engaging in conversations with others. Seek feedback from friends or trusted individuals to help you improve your social skills.

5. Challenge Perfectionism

Accept that nobody is perfect, and making mistakes is a natural part of social interactions. Instead of striving for perfection, focus on being authentic and genuine in your interactions. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them, rather than being overly critical of yourself.

6. Practice Self-Compassion

Be kind to yourself and treat yourself with the same compassion you would offer to a friend in a similar situation. Acknowledge your efforts and progress, even if they seem small. Practice self-care activities that nurture your mind, body, and soul.

7. Limit Alcohol and Caffeine

Both alcohol and caffeine can exacerbate anxiety symptoms, so it's best to limit their consumption. Alcohol is a depressant that can worsen anxiety symptoms, while caffeine is a stimulant that can increase feelings of nervousness and agitation. Instead, opt for healthier alternatives such as herbal tea or water.

8. Join a Support Group

Connecting with others who experience social anxiety can provide a sense of belonging and understanding. Joining a support group or online community can allow you to share your experiences, receive support, and learn coping strategies from others who are facing similar challenges.

9. Volunteer

Volunteering can help you build confidence and social skills in a supportive environment. It allows you to engage with others in a meaningful way and can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Choose a cause or organization that resonates with you and offers opportunities for social interaction.

10. Consider Professional Help

If your social anxiety is significantly impacting your life and daily functioning, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. Therapy techniques, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can be highly effective in treating social anxiety disorder. A therapist can help you identify and challenge negative thought patterns, develop coping strategies, and gradually expose you to social situations to reduce anxiety. In some cases, medication may also be prescribed as one of the best tips for social anxiety.

How Can Now&Me Help?

How can NowandMe help

If you’re fighting battles in your head every day and don’t know how to get over social anxiety, and you want to escape this misery, you should talk to a qualified, empathetic, and seasoned therapist, like the ones we have at Now&Me.

With a therapist by your side, you can process your emotions, share what’s weighing you down, and start improving your mental health, through our anxiety therapy. These incredibly helpful sessions needn’t be expensive. Our prices start at INR 30/- per session, with the best line of therapists in the country. We vet our therapists thoroughly, and present to you only the best of the best, for you to choose from when you download the Now&Me app to book a session.

Here’s the best part – you also get to talk and share what’s on your heart anonymously with strangers, and take heart in those who have had similar experiences. That’s what our community is all about.

The right time to seek help is now. Download the Now&Me app today.

FAQs

Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, to reduce social anxiety.

Coping skills for anxiety include mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, journaling, physical exercise, and seeking support from others.

Triggers for social anxiety can include fear of judgment, negative past experiences, feeling self-conscious, or being the center of attention.

Symptoms of social anxiety can include excessive self-consciousness, fear of embarrassment or humiliation, avoidance of social situations, and physical symptoms like sweating or trembling.

Overcoming social anxiety involves gradual exposure to feared social situations, cognitive-behavioral therapy, challenging negative thoughts, and building social skills through practice.

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