Understanding Social Anxiety

Understanding Social Anxiety

It’s not unusual to be a little shy or nervous in circumstances where you feel you might be judged or get embarrassed. Situations like:

  • Attending parties
  • Dating
  • Participating in meetings or classes
  • Speaking in front of a group
  • Talking with strangers or people in authority
  • Eating, drinking, or writing in public
  • Using public bathrooms

But if you tend to worry about such situations for days or weeks in advance, or if those feelings are so persistent that it’s hard for you to make or keep friends or to function at school or work, it could be social anxiety. Its more severe form – where anxiety rises to the level of dread or causes you to avoid such situations entirely – is sometimes called social phobia.

Social anxiety can also cause physical symptoms: You may sweat, tremble, blush, or feel nauseated at the prospect of social interactions.

Seeking treatment for social anxiety

If you struggle with social anxiety, you could feel its impacts beyond individual social situations. Over time, it could make it difficult for you to finish school, pursue the job or career you want, or form romantic relationships. It could also increase your risk for depression or substance use disorder.

That’s why it’s important to know that there are effective treatments for social anxiety disorder.

  • A type of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used. In CBT, your therapist helps you identify the thought patterns that cause your anxiety and build skills to recognize and redirect those thoughts when they occur.
  • Your therapist may also use an approach called exposure therapy. In this approach, your therapist will guide you in facing social situations, either in a safe environment or in your imagination, as a way to help you get over your fears.
  • You may also learn relaxation techniques to help you cope with anxiety-causing situations.

Medications, including antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicines, are also used to treat social anxiety. Often, treatment includes a combination of therapy and medication.

Keeping a healthy lifestyle can also play a role in treatment. Getting enough sleep, staying physically active, and avoiding stimulants such as caffeine can reduce the impact of anxiety on your life and even make episodes less frequent.

Treating social anxiety via telehealth

Seeing a therapist virtually can be beneficial if you have social anxiety. You won’t have the stress of leaving your home, taking public transportation, or facing other situations that might make you anxious. You may also find it easier to talk about things that distress you if you’re in a comfortable environment. To make your telehealth sessions less stressful and more helpful:

  • Find a place that’s quiet, private, and free from distractions
  • Test your internet connection, as well as your device’s camera and microphone, before the visit
  • Consider using earphones or a headset; they’ll keep your conversation more private
  • If your internet bandwidth is low, consider asking other members of your household to go offline temporarily
  • Turn other device(s) or programs off, turn off sounds/notifications, or leave them outside the room entirely

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