What Is Social Anxiety Disorder

Edmonton Psychologist | What Is Social Anxiety Disorder

In today’s topic, we will answer the question of: What is Social Anxiety Disorder? To get to the point social anxiety disorder is anxiety you experience in a social setting. Some of the typical symptoms include racing heart, clammy hands, and excessive sweating.

You can experience this in any setting that you are around other people. This problem is also known as social phobia and is typically long term although some people do outgrow it. This common problem that causes distress often starts in the teenage years and leaves a lasting impact.

Social anxiety can be mislabeled

When placed in social settings such as a work function or a friend’s gathering, a person who has social anxiety will have intense fear of interacting with others. They will avoid these situations at all costs so that they are not further embarrassed or traumatized. Oftentimes social phobia is interchanged with agoraphobia but these two conditions are different even though the fear that each causes gives similar reactions in the body.

Agoraphobia should not be confused with social phobia even though they have similar characteristics. They both have intense feelings of fear but the origin of the fear is from a different place. Agoraphobia is the intense fear of being in an unfamiliar or potentially inescapable or embarrassing situation whereas social phobia is the intense fear of social interaction where you will be embarrassed or judged by other people. The symptoms with both are often the same. There is fear and worry present which will lead to avoidance. There can even be panic attacks and fleeing to a safe place. Markedly, social phobia is onset by social interactions not just out of nowhere.

Social anxiety disorder quite often is seen in individuals who have had physical, emotional, and psychological abuse or a combination thereof. Bullying or being a shy child can also contribute to this condition. There is a lot of time spent self-reflecting in a negative way about how the person handled themselves in social settings. Self-criticism is a major issue. They feel judged when in reality they were likely not. This causes future avoidance which creates a vicious cycle because it prolongs the symptoms and problem. Eventually this person will have to enter social situations again and the problem will be rooted deeper. Being a hermit is not a good alternative because it ignores the problem.

Most Common treatments

Treatment includes exposing the person to social situations on a scale of the least scary to start with. The socially anxious person is equipped with tools to deal with the situation in a healthy way. These tools include grounding, breathwork, cognitive behavioral therapy strategies, and self-talk strategies. The skills and tools gives power to master the situations they find themselves in. Deescalating themselves through these techniques is powerful for a person struggling with social anxiety.

The more this is done the better a person will feel in future social settings. Some people also turn to medication for extra help. Initially this is a good tool and can eventually be phased out while learning other tools for overcoming social anxiety. Treatment is not an all or nothing thing but can be tailored to the individual on the level they are at. The psychologist and the doctor work hand in hand to help the person struggling.

Techniques and tools to help with social anxiety disorder

Some of the techniques and tools to help deescalate the social anxiety may be new to some people. Grounding is a self-soothing technique that has you reconnect to the earth and the energy found there. Things like walking barefoot on the grass, sand, dirt or rock are examples of this. If you think about it, we are like cut flowers, detached from the earth and it’s nourishing energy. By reconnecting we can overcome anxiety that may be present in our body. This is not something that is made up and years of extensive research prove it helps.

Take a moment the next time you are in nature to enjoy the view, smell the roses, or listen to the crunch of snow under your feet and you will probably notice you feel soothed by the connection you have with your surroundings. After asking a runner what this feels like they describe the exact outcome mentioned. A reconnection to nature brings them calm feelings and reduces anxiety.

Take a deep breath

How does breathing in a special way help with anxiety in social situations? This technique is called breathwork and it has been proven to reduce stress and calm the body. The slow down physically, and mentally help the person to become aware of the body and what it is feeling. With the added focus being on what we are physically feeling when we do the breathwork we can stop any negative thoughts from continuing mentally. This has the person use deep, diaphragmatic or belly breathing to circumvent the mind and it’s thought processes. This forces the person to become aware of the body.

CBT strategies that help a socially anxious person include reframing or restructuring of the mind, guided exposure to the situations that cause anxiety, journalling, scheduling activities, relaxation techniques and role playing. This larger topic of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will be discussed in depth in a separate article.

Talking with yourself is helpful

Self-talk strategies to reduce social anxiety are very effective. One of the biggest helps is separating thoughts from emotions. Thoughts and feelings are not truth tellers. When they are disarmed, healing can begin. By challenging your unhealthy thoughts, you can reduce anxiety and hopelessness which are precursors to depression. There is a coping technique that effectively reduces anxiety. It is called 5 4 3 2 1. Find five things that are seen, four that are able to be touched, three that are heard, two that can be smelled and one that is tasted. This brings calmness to the person who feels anxious.

Contact us today!

If left untreated, the fallout of social anxiety can be depression, chronic disease, and more isolation. If any of this article has helped you and you’d like to speak to a professional more about how to overcome social anxiety disorder, please call ReDiscover Psychological Services to connect with a therapist. Visit rediscoverpsych.com for contact info or call 780-540-4099. We have affordable help and the initial consult is complimentary.