Don’t feel strange about social anxiety, because it is perfectly normal. What is strange is when we don’t feel any at all.
Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) is an extremely common problem. Millions of people all over the world suffer from this devastating and traumatic problem every day. Social anxiety disorder is not just shyness – it is more severe than that. Social anxiety disorder can greatly affect your life. You may not do as well at school or work or in your personal relationships you might have done, as you tend to avoid situations involving one to one encounters, group work, meetings or discussions. You may find it hard to get, or keep, a job. This may be because you feel unable to cope with the social aspects needed for many jobs, including interviews. A fear of dating and getting close to another person can mean you may miss out on finding a partner and it can be generally difficult to make friends of either sex. Even going into banks and shops and travelling on public transport can be a challenge.
People with social anxiety disorder know that their anxiety is irrational but having this knowledge is not enough to overcome it. Thus, in people with social anxiety, thoughts and feelings of anxiety persist and show no signs of going away despite the fact that socially-anxious people “face their fears” every day of their lives. Many people say that their symptoms began after one memorable embarrassing experience but many others simply say that it has been present ‘as long as they could remember’.
The symptoms of social anxiety
Once recognised, social anxieties can usually be successfully treated. Therefore if you think you may have a social anxiety it is important to look out for common signs and symptoms so you can seek help.
- Anxiety about being with other people
- Difficulty talking in a confident relaxed way to others
- Self-consciousness in front of other people and feelings of embarrassment
- Fear that other people will judge you
- Worry for days or weeks before any public event
- Avoidance of public places and crowds
- Difficulty making and keeping friends
- Blushing, sweating, or trembling around other people
Other physical symptoms, such as stomach upset, nausea, muscle tension and headaches
Causes of social anxiety
It is not fully understood why some people develop a social anxiety while others may not. Sometimes it runs in families, so there may be a biological factor, but often it can stem from past experiences. Bad treatment at school (bullying and teasing) or how we were treated by our families and friends can affect us in later life too.
Dealing with a social anxiety through counselling
Counsellors will often teach their clients breathing and other relaxation techniques or encourage them to use guided imagery both in sessions and by listening to audio recordings in between sessions. Affirmations can be extremely useful for an extra confidence boost in a challenging situation. This is where the client chooses one or two key statements that they find particular useful and empowering such as “There will almost always be people out there who don’t like me. This is totally normal” or “I just need to be myself — and if people don’t like me for it, tough luck!” or “Many wonderful changes have already occurred in me. I’m getting better and stronger everyday.”
Counselling for Anxiety Disorders
Counselling can help many suffering with social anxiety disorder recover and resume normal life. If you would like some help in order to deal with your social anxiety disorder, call Geraldine Brennan, In Dublin Counselling, on 085 172 4288.