How to Cure Social Anxiety Using These 5 Tips
Updated August 27, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Tonia Cassaday
A social anxiety disorder can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, or gender identity. Symptoms may include the persistent fear of being judged or humiliated in specific social situations and excessive anxiety that does not appropriately match the tone of the situation. Patients struggling with social anxiety sometimes enroll in counseling or obtain medication to manage the symptoms of their anxiety disorder.
If you feel that your social anxiety has taken over your life and disrupted your ability to handle regular social situations, check out these 5 tips on curing social anxiety now.
What is Social Anxiety? How Does Social Anxiety Affect Someone’s Ability to Function?
But first, let’s review the definition of social anxiety disorder. While it is normal to feel nervous in certain situations, such as a job interview or a dinner with your partner’s parents, it is not normal to experience social phobia and intense anxiety toward everyday situations. A social anxiety disorder is often manifested in severe fear or distress toward these social situations. A person may worry that people will harshly judge them or reject them. These symptoms may be so severe that they hinder a person’s ability to live a normal life.
Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, can be triggered in a variety of situations involving:
- Using public restrooms
- Entering a room filled with people
- Eating in front of someone else
- Attending class
- Going to work
- Starting a new conversation
- Going to a party
- Making eye contact with someone
- Speaking in public or giving a speech to a large group of people
- Talking to strangers
While these situations may not seem like a big deal to some people, they can still cause social anxiety and apprehension in patients diagnosed with social phobia.
Common Causes of Social Anxiety
What causes someone to develop social anxiety disorder? Like most mental health disorders, social anxiety disorder is caused by the intricate interaction among a variety of biological and environmental factors. Common causes stem from inherited traits, an overactive amygdala, and learned behavior. Let’s explore each common cause of social anxiety together.
- Genetic Predisposition: Mental health problems such as social anxiety can run in families. However, researchers aren’t entirely sure whether this occurs due to genetics or learned behavior.
- Amygdala: The amygdala, a structure in the brain that could be involved in controlling the fear response, is sometimes overactive in individuals with a social anxiety disorder. Patients with an overactive amygdala tend to experience a heightened fear response, resulting in increased levels of anxiety during social situations.
- Past Events: Past social situations that ended in embarrassment may cause people to develop a social anxiety disorder.
- Environment: Parents who display anxieties and phobias toward specific social situations may pass these tendencies onto their children. Children of overprotective or over-controlling parents may also develop social anxiety.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety
Social anxiety can present itself through emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms. Common symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:
- Avoiding social situations that might place you at the center of attention
- Feelings of intense fear and anxiety toward talking to strangers
- Fear of placing oneself in situations where they might be judged
- Sweating and trembling
- Inability to catch one’s breath
- Fear of feeling anxious in social situations, which can end up increasing one’s anxiety
- Blanking during a stressful or anxiety-including social situation
- Clinginess or tantrums in children
- Body shaking and tremors
- Feelings of low self-esteem
Risk Factors for Developing a Social Anxiety Disorder
A variety of risk factors can increase one’s chances of developing a social anxiety disorder. Family history, individual temperament, new social situations, or insecurities can cause social anxiety disorder. While symptoms of social anxiety disorder usually start in one’s teenage years, they can appear during one’s adult years when they start a new job or make an important presentation.
Scheduling a Doctors Appointment for Social Anxiety
If you think you have a social anxiety disorder, reach out to your primary care physician for an appointment. Your doctor will likely try to rule out other conditions that could be causing your anxiety. During your appointment, your physician will perform a physical exam, discuss your symptoms, and review social situations that could be causing your anxiety. In order to make a diagnosis for social anxiety disorder, patients must experience persistent fear or apprehension toward specific social situations, avoidance of anxiety-inducing situations, and excessive anxiety that interferes with their life.
5 Things to Do if You Have Social Anxiety Disorder
Patients with social anxiety disorder often take a variety of steps and lifestyle changes to manage their disorder. If you are working to overcome your social anxiety disorder, check out these tips for conquering it below.
1. Challenge and Counter Your Negative Thoughts
People with social anxiety tend to suffer from negative and intrusive thoughts. They may fear that a certain social situation could make them look stupid or that they will embarrass themselves in front of a large group of people. Challenging or countering these thoughts is an effective method for managing your social anxiety.
Many patients with social anxiety also fall into the trap of engaging in unhelpful thinking styles. They might catastrophize an event or personalize someone’s behavior toward them. To start disengaging from these thoughts, patients with social anxiety must identify any underlying negative thoughts they may be holding. They should then analyze and challenge these thoughts. By logically evaluating their thoughts and emotions, patients with social anxiety can stop these negative thoughts and replace them with more realistic, positive ones.
2. Keep Your Focus on Others Instead of Yourself
People with social anxiety tend to get caught up in their own discomfort and nerves. As a result, those with social anxiety often struggle to focus on people around them instead of themselves. When they focus too much on their fear and apprehension, patients with social anxiety can accidentally induce extra anxiety and stress on themselves.
Don’t do this! Instead, try to focus your attention on those around you. Start a new conversation with someone else or engage in a current conversation to take your mind off your current anxieties. Try to focus on what the other person is saying rather than tune into those negative thoughts nagging you. Social anxiety can be a bear to deal with, but remember that it isn’t as noticeable as you think. Just try to focus on the present moment as best as you can. As you continue to practice this, your social anxiety should eventually become easier to manage.
3. Make a Greater Effort to Become More Social
Challenge your social anxiety by seeking out new relationships and finding supportive social environments to join. Something as simple as saying “hello” to your co-workers or asking them what they did over the weekend can help you manage your social anxiety. As your efforts at alleviating your social anxiety become easier, make sure you continue to cultivate your new relationships. Some patients who struggle with social anxiety also take social skills class or volunteer with small groups of people.
4. Limit Unhealthy Foods and Habits
Your diet could have a significant impact on your mental health as well as your ability to manage your social anxiety. Avoid consuming excessive amounts of caffeine from coffee or soda, as it can increase your symptoms of anxiety. Try to drink only in moderation and avoid smoking. Both alcohol and nicotine can worse your social anxiety and its accompanying symptoms.
5. Try Alternative Treatments Such as Meditation and Yoga
Meditation and yoga can also be incredibly helpful for people with social anxiety. Try pairing these practices with at least 30 minutes of exercise a day to help manage your social anxiety.
Treatments for Social Anxiety
Patients can choose from a wide variety of treatments for their social anxiety disorder.
- Prescription medications such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) — including exposure, cognitive restructuring, and social skills training
Most of the time, your primary care physician will recommend a specific treatment for your social anxiety disorder. If you desire convenience and ease when it comes to your social anxiety treatment, you might enjoy online mental health counseling. Online therapy works well for people with busy schedules or who are unable to find a physician nearby that can help them.
Social Anxiety in Children and Teenagers
Social anxiety can affect children and teenagers. While it is normal for adolescents to feel self-conscious and apprehensive toward the idea of being rejected, feelings of anxiety that are extreme or intense enough to disrupt their ability to function normally require professional help. Social anxiety usually develops around the age of 13. It can also co-occur with other disorders such as depression or ADHD. Social anxiety is more common in females than in males. Adolescents who underwent a traumatic experience are also more likely to develop social anxiety.
Signs of social anxiety in adolescents are similar to those observed in adults. If you believe your child is suffering from a social anxiety disorder, it is imperative that you schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician. Their physician will perform a physical evaluation and ask a comprehensive set of questions regarding their recent moods and symptoms before making an official diagnosis.
Are you or a loved one currently struggling with a social anxiety disorder? Reach out to the online mental health professionals at BetterHelp today. Our mental health counselors are here to assist you or your family members in coping with social anxiety and phobia. With the right help, you can overcome your social anxiety disorder.