Imagine: you are constantly under the light of spotlights. They illuminate your every step, every detail of your appearance, and everyone’s eyes are fixed only on you. People see all your shortcomings, even in character and behavior. You say something and the people around you judge you for every word. How do you feel? Most likely, you are uncomfortable and want to run away. This is what people with social anxiety most often feel. Here’s how to determine if you have this disorder and how to deal with it.
What Is Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is a fear of people and interaction with them. It can be expressed in different forms and situations: from public speaking to simply leaving the house. Often people with social anxiety try to avoid any contact with others.
A person with social anxiety in a stressful situation is constantly preoccupied with thoughts that he or she says or does something wrong or looks wrong. At the same time, it seems to them that danger comes from others, and they feel powerless and defenseless before it. Such feelings cause a person to have an acute desire to run away or hide.
People with social anxiety are afraid of being seen and noticed, afraid to show themselves. They feel that they are something they are not, and they feel that everyone notices their shortcomings. Their negative inner sense of self is projected onto others and comes back as severe anxiety.
What People With This Disorder Fear
A person with social anxiety can have both rational and unconscious fears.
On a rational level, they are usually afraid of the negative evaluation of others. Because of this, for a person with social anxiety, any situation, whether it is an exam or just a trip to the store, becomes stressful. They are constantly waiting for the evaluation, so before leaving the house, they always carefully prepare, making sure that everything is perfect. Often people with social anxiety are afraid of eye contact because they expect to see judgment or disgust in the eyes of another person.
Another fear is talking. With social anxiety, people sometimes feel that anything they say will sound stupid and inappropriate.
It’s thought that unconsciously, a person with social anxiety is afraid of showing their aggression and hostility towards others, which seems uncontrollable and destructive to them. They often believe that it may entail punishment in the form of retaliatory aggression from people.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety
Social anxiety, like any other phobia, can manifest itself in both psychological and physical symptoms.
On an emotional level, a person with social anxiety may experience severe anxiety, fear of judgment and evaluation of others. On a behavioral level, they avoid eye contact and situations involving appearing in public and interacting with people.
On a bodily level, there are sweating, dry mouth, nausea, rapid pulse, body tremors, dizziness, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
How to Know if a Person Has a Social Anxiety?
A person may have a social anxiety if they:
- Experience anxiety even at the thought of having to talk to a stranger.
- Have a hard time fitting in with new people and making relationships.
- Avoid large crowds of people. It seems to them that they look at him askew, notice their shortcomings, and blame them.
- Are afraid of being in the center of attention, it’s difficult for them to be in the spotlight and easier to always stay unnoticed.
- Can’t talk or call someone first. It’s easier for them to write a message than to communicate in person.
- Prefer to spend evenings playing at Betamo or watching Netflix instead of going out to the park or hanging out with friends.
- Always expect criticism and negative evaluation from others, try to keep silent and never express their opinion.
- When socializing with others or in crowded places, experience severe anxiety, up to panic attacks, palpitations, sweating, trembling, dizziness, pain, or rumbling in the stomach.
- After talking to people, think about the conversation for a long time, analyzing what they said or did wrong.
Self-Help for Social Anxiety
Specialists usually suggest the following:
- Breathing exercises.
- Working with negative attitudes.
- Trying to face fear.
- Acquiring the skill of not focusing on anxious thoughts.
These methods are well proven to help in stressful situations. They help reduce anxiety in the here and now. But it is important to realize that they bring relief only in the moment and don’t address the causes of social anxiety. In the meantime, the driving impulses of the personality continue to need to be worked through.