This is Part I of a two-part series. See Part II here.
I suffered from moderate social anxiety disorder throughout my teenage years and my early 20’s.
I don’t think I fully realized the ways in which it held me back at the time, but I certainly do now.
The symptoms were obvious. I feared approaching people and speaking up in class. I had a general feeling of no confidence and constant anxiousness. I was always apprehension to involve myself in social situations. It was hell.
However, I eventually overcame my social anxiety.
I did a few things.
- A lot of reflecting.
- A lot of reading.
- A lot of facing my fears
What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia) is an excessive and unwarranted fear of being looked down upon or judged by others. This occurs in almost every type of social interaction.
Social anxiety disorder is extremely common. According to Web MD,
Social anxiety disorder is the most common anxiety disorder and the third most common mental disorder in the U.S., after depression and alcohol dependence. An estimated 19.2 million Americans have social anxiety disorder.
Emotional symptoms associated with social anxiety include:
- Excessive self-consciousness
- Extreme Fear of others and/or how you will act
- Avoidance of social situations
- Low self-esteem
- Embarrassment for seemingly no reason at all
- Compulsive worrying
Physical symptoms associated with social anxiety include:
- Throbbing heart
- Red face
- Stomach pains (“butterflies”)
- Weak voice
- Breathing difficulties
Those with social anxiety loath communicating in large groups, especially if they involve unfamiliar faces. It’s painful, both physically and emotionally, and can evoke feelings of helplessness.
If left untreated, social anxiety can affect every faucet of one’s life, including school, work, and friendships.
Triggers for social anxiety include:
- Starting a conversation with a stranger (and maintaining it)
- Public speaking
- Interactions with “authority figures”
- Job interviews
- Social gatherings with a group of strangers
- Being the “center of attention” or feeling “watched”
- Going to a place that has a lot of people
- Phone calls
What are the causes of Social Anxiety Disorder?
There is no concrete diagnosis of social anxiety disorder. Most agree it is a combination of psychological, biological, behavioral and environmental factors.
Social anxiety disorder can vary drastically from person to person. Some only deal with minimal social anxiety, where others can be tormented by it daily.
It usually develops during childhood and can last a lifetime is not correctly treated.
Social anxiety can rapidly develop if someone is continually put in situations where they are singled out, bullied/teased, or made to feel awkward.
What are the Treatments?
There are various levels of social anxiety.
Those with severe cases might need to be treated with Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), medication, and/or counseling.
Those with moderate to minimal cases (which is what I had) need to focus their efforts on daily improvements which will gradually lead to a reduction of social anxiety.
We have the power to beat social anxiety.
It comes down to one’s effort level, and asking the tough questions:
- How far are you willing to push yourself to improve?
- How much effort are you willing to exert?
- Will you give up when you face resistance that seems impossible to overcome?
- Will you quit and remain stuck in place, fighting daily battles with anxiety for the rest of your life?
I chose to help myself and that what ultimately worked for me.
Part II will focus on my effective and proven method to help those with low to moderate anxiety. Here is a hint: I worked extremely hard to overcome my fears.
Do you suffer from social anxiety?
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