Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized by a persistent and excessive fear of scrutiny and humiliation in social or performance situations. People with SAD usually know their fear is irrational, yet they are unable to suppress it. They may be afraid of blushing or choking up while speaking, feeling nauseous or dizzy, looking awkward in front of others, or being viewed as stupid. They recognize that they are going overboard but feel powerless to stop it.
Prevalence rates vary depending on the population sampled and methodology used. Data suggest that 7 percent of people experience social anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.
According to a psychiatrist in Bhopal, social anxiety disorder is the second most common mental illness in the United States after depression. But because people are often afraid to admit they have a problem and seek treatment, it’s likely that many with social anxiety disorder go untreated or undiagnosed. Here are 5 ways to overcome social anxiety.
1. Understand how social anxiety works
It can be helpful to learn more about your disorder and what causes it. Psychologists often refer to this as gaining a cognitive understanding of the problem (because cognition refers to thoughts and beliefs). This knowledge can help you take back control from your anxious mind at times when you feel like your thoughts are running away with you.
2. Challenge your fearful thoughts
When you’re feeling anxious, it’s easy to let the “what ifs” run wild. Your mind quickly fills with catastrophic images of all the ways you might humiliate yourself in front of others. As these fearful thoughts lead to physical sensations of anxiety (rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, clammy hands), your mind further convinces itself that something terrible will happen.
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Challenging these thoughts can be helpful because it takes you out of the here-and-now, where you are powerless to stop what’s happening (because, after all, nothing has happened yet!), and focuses on managing fear in the moment.
3. Expose yourself gradually to feared situations
With systematic exposure, you’re purposely putting yourself into the kinds of social situations that normally cause anxiety. You start with easier exposures and work your way up to more difficult ones as your comfort level increases. This can be done on your own or with the help of a therapist.
There are many different types of “exposures” that can be done. In one approach, for example, you might start by going to a public place and just hanging out there, then progress to ordering food in a crowded restaurant and finally making a toast at a wedding reception.
4. Practice social skills
Many people with social anxiety disorder have poor communication skills or lack self-confidence because of their fears. Through practice, you can learn how to communicate more effectively and build self-assurance. You may not feel capable of meeting new friends or dating yet; but as you build your confidence, those things might become possible as well as reachable goals on the journey of recovery from social anxiety disorder.
5. Challenge your sense of responsibility for others’ opinions
When you’re feeling anxious, it’s natural to want to please others and avoid disappointing them. You might think that if people criticize you, it will be your fault or that there is something inherently wrong with you. It can be helpful to recognize that when someone is thinking unkind thoughts about you, it’s because they are having their own negative feelings; not because there is anything wrong with who you are as a person.
No one else has the power or responsibility to make you feel bad about yourself unless you give them this power by believing their opinion of you reflects the truth (rather than simply reflecting how they feel in the moment).
It’s important to remember that recovery from social anxiety is a process. You may have setbacks along the way, but committing yourself to treatment can help you get better faster.