What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is the fear of being judged or evaluated negatively by other people in everyday social interactions. It is a chronic condition that can get better with treatment.
A person suffering from social anxiety are mistaken for being:
Paradoxically, people with social anxiety want to make friends and want to become part of a group along with other forms of social interaction. However, being held back by the fear of being perceived by others in a negative way can make socializing difficult.
What are the Symptoms of Social Anxiety?
A person who suffers from social anxiety can experience different symptoms that include emotional and behavioral symptoms along with physical symptoms and mental symptoms.
Physical Symptoms include:
Blushing: Blushing is a reddening of your face associated with triggered emotional stress caused by passion, embarrassment, shyness, anger or romantic stimulation. Social anxiety can make your face red.
Fatigue: There are many people who experience hyperactivity and arousal following an anxiety attack, while there are others that experience fatigue instead. Fatigue is a feeling of extreme tiredness characterized by a lack of energy and motivation.
Trembling and Sweating: Conditions such as anxiety, excitement and frailty can cause an uncontrollable shaking or quivering. Emotive stimuli like stress and anxiety can also cause sweating. Also, the sweating itself can make someone with social anxiety more self-conscious.
Upset Stomach or Nausea: Stress and anxiety can make you feel sick to your stomach with nausea and cramps. In some cases anxiety can lead to a condition called Irritible Bowel Symdrome (IBS).
Trouble Breathing and Dizziness: Anxiety can tighten your muscles including the ones that help you breath. The fear of passing out occurs with shortness of breath and it can make someone feel more anxious than they already are resulting in a panic attack. Being short of breath can cause dizziness and can make someone feel like they’re light headed.
Muscle Tension: Muscles can tense up due to anxiety and it causes feelings of stiffness throughout your body or unexplained pain.
Fast Heartbeat: Feeling anxious can cause an abnormally high heart rate and heart palpitations. Heart palpitations can feel like your heart is racing, pounding or beating irregularly.
Emotional and Behavioral Symptoms include:
Fear of Being Judged and Embarrassing Yourself: Fear of being judged is a contributor to social anxiety. Have you ever asked someone an embarrassing question and you end up feeling overwhelmed by shame and fear being judged for asking it? This happens a lot with social anxiety disorder.
Intense Fear of Interacting and Talking to Strangers: The fear of judgement can inhibit our ability to interact with strangers. The anticipation of becoming anxious in a social situation with strangers can bring on anxiety.
Fear that Others Will Notice your Physical Symptoms: Whatever your physical symptoms are, whether you’re trembling, sweating or blushing you can become even more anxious from the fear that someone with notice your physical symptoms.
Difficulty with Relationships: Social anxiety makes relationships difficult. All of the what if questions pertaining to whether you’d be judged or the fear of embarrassing yourself in front of a crowd.
Body Image Issues: Being self-conscious about you look can trigger social anxiety. A lot of people who have body image issues due to acne, being overweight, being too skinny, having visible scars can trigger negative self-talk about other people judging you.
Substance Abuse: Substance abuse, particularly alcohol abuse is more common in people with anxiety disorders than the general population.
Mental symptoms include:
Anxiety and Panic Attacks: Anxiety is the feeling of fear of what’s to come in the future. A panic attack is an episode of intense fear with physical reactions including sweating, trembling and trouble breathing.
Depression and Low-Self Esteem: Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Along with depression social anxiety can result in low self-esteem, which can lead to a lack of confidence, feeling bad about yourself and can cause trouble with being assertive.
Hyperactive Amygdala: Signals from the emotional brain can overpower the cognitive brain due to a hyperactive amygdala.
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What Triggers Social Anxiety?
Anxiety and anxiety disorders are complicated. The causes are a combination of factors; including genetics and environmental reasons.
However, there are many triggers that can cause symptoms due to stressful events, emotions and experiences. Anxiety triggers vary from person to person; some people feel anxious due to multiple triggers, but there are others that can feel anxious for no reason at all.
These stressful experiences can include:
- Stressful Life Events and Social Situations: A lot of stressful life events have the potential to trigger social anxiety including death of a loved one, job loss, divorce, moving, emotional problems, chronic illness or past trauma. Stressful life events can trigger anxiety in social situations due the fear of being judged, the fear of being embarrassed and worst of all the fear of rejection.
- Caffeine and Diet: Most of us need a cup of coffee to wake us up in the morning. For those who suffer from an anxiety disorder consuming too much caffeine can trigger symptoms or make them worse. Also, diet can trigger anxiety symptoms; certain foods including dairy, fried foods, gluten and processed foods are not recommended for social anxiety suffers.
- Negative Self Talk and Suicidal Thoughts: Social anxiety can trigger negative self-talk that may limit you from believing in yourself. Also, social anxiety can co-occur with depression and negative self-talk; this can cause someone to have suicidal thoughts. When this happens call a professional immediately.
- Lack of Sleep: There is a connection between anxiety and lack of sleep. Not getting enough sleep can cause anxiety, however anxiety itself can cause sleep problems.
How Do You Overcome Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is a chronic lifelong condition and cannot be cured, but with the right treatment it can be overcome.
Ways of overcoming social anxiety include:
- Work with a Therapist:: Along with self-help it’s important to work with a therapist on how to manage social anxiety through medication, cognitive therapy and setting objective goals. Therapists can also work with you by utilizing holistic treatments including meditation, acupuncture and herbal supplements.
- CBD oil: CBD oil is great for alleviating anxiety related symptoms, for example anxiety can cause restless leg syndrome and make it difficult to fall asleep. By applying CBD oil you can relieve anxiety related symptoms and get a restful night sleep.
- Reduce Your Caffeine Intake and Change Your Diet: When you reduce the amount of caffeine you consume and change your diet you’re less likely to experience anxiety symptoms. Your diet should consist of whole grains, proteins, fruits and vegetables.
- Exposure Therapy: It’s important to get outside your comfort zone and slowly expose yourself to social situations; including crowded places, parties or even traveling to an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people.
- Reframing Your Negative Thoughts: I mentioned in my post “How to Turn Anxiety into a Superpower” that reframing is the process where negative and unhelpful thoughts are replaced with positive and empowering ones.
Have You Ever Dealt with Social Anxiety?
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