What Is Social Anxiety and What Can You Do About It?
Updated: Nov 1, 2022
Do you feel anxious in social situations? Does it make you feel like you have no idea what to say when everyone else seems calm, relaxed and confident? For some people, social anxiety can be so debilitating that it makes them think they’re inferior or that they don’t belong. That is not the case at all. In fact, if you have social anxiety, you are just as normal as someone without it and there are ways to overcome this challenging condition.
Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a long-term and overwhelming fear of social situations. It is a common problem that usually starts during the teenage years. *1
If you have social anxiety, you might find it difficult to speak in public, talk to strangers, perform in front of people, or feel at ease at work events or parties. The symptoms of social anxiety can be physical as well as emotional.
Physical symptoms may include:
Trembling or a racing heartbeat
Emotionally you may experience:
Racing thoughts about what others are thinking about you
Worrying excessively about embarrassing yourself or making a mistake when talking with others
Why Does This Happen?
Social anxiety is an intense fear of social situations. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, about 13% of adults have social anxiety disorder in their lifetime. The most common symptoms are excessive worry before and during a social event, such as a party or speech. An individual may also be afraid of being judged by other people.
As with other mental health disorders, it can be hard to pinpoint what causes these feelings. Genetics may play a role because they tend to run in families. Traumatic events such as childhood bullying can also cause someone to develop this type of anxiety later on in life. Regardless of the cause, it's important not only to understand how this affects you but what you can do about it!
Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy is effective at treating social anxiety. Alongside teaching clients evidence-based coping skills and techniques to help manage their anxiety in the moment, other Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Hypnotherapy techniques are used - for example, Hypnotic Desensitisation.
Hypnotic Desensitisation is a technique that has been used successfully for over 50 years in clinical practice to help clients overcome social anxiety.
It is based on Systematic Desensitisation, a technique devised by Wolpe (1961) that is an empirically supported treatment, which means that it has had replicable, credible research carried out on it and has been found to be effective.
During therapy sessions, the client is put into a wonderfully relaxed state of Hypnosis and then asked to imagine being in the target situation that causes them anxiety - e.g attending a social event. As the client relaxes deeper and deeper into hypnosis whilst really picturing themself in that scene their anxiety slowly but surely subsides and is replaced by feelings of calm.
With a little patience, focus and repetition the client becomes desensitised to the event and the symptoms subside.
Clients tend to react very well to this approach as it gives them the opportunity to use visual imagery of the social situation in the comfort of hypnosis rather than having to be placed in the real world situation, which can be overwhelming.
The Mindful Therapist, Harley Street London, helps clients overcome anxiety disorders, depression, stress, habits and addictions.
4 tips for dealing with social anxiety disorder
Plan your time well - If you have to be somewhere at a certain time try to make sure you are not rushing around to get ready and out the door. This will only increase your level of anxiety.
Prepare in advance - Perhaps note down some topics of conversation or what you want to say beforehand so you don't forget anything. If your Hypnotherapist has given you coping strategies make sure you are well prepared and mindful of when and how to use them.
Try this breathing exercise next time you are feeling social anxiety:
Know your triggers - If something is going to trigger your anxiety, be mindful of how you are going to deal with the situation. Although avoidance is not a way of coping with anxiety perhaps find an alternate way of dealing with the situation.
Face your fears head on - Don't let fear stop you from doing things. Reach out and get professional help today.