Anxiety is a normal, emotional reaction to danger, and has been explained as “the body’s automatic fight-or-flight response that is triggered when you feel threatened, under pressure, or are facing a challenging situation.” Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also referred to as social phobia, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic mental health condition. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) explains that social anxiety disorder is “characterized by persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others.” An individual with social anxiety disorder will experience a stronger and more intense sense of anxiety surrounding uncomfortable social situations than someone without SAD. They will go to great lengths to avoid social situations due to a fear of being negatively evaluated (e.g., embarrassed, judged, or rejected) by others. Social anxiety disorder is the second most diagnosed anxiety disorder and is said to affect approximately 15 million American adults.
What To Do
Although anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress, it is advantageous to learn a variety of strategies to overcome mild social anxiety, whenever and wherever it presents. Consider the following suggestions to help you ease your social anxiety:
- Start small: to build your confidence and set yourself up for success, start with a small achievable social interaction goal and gradually work your way up to more challenging situations.
- Cultivate a robust supply of relaxation tools and techniques: try out as many different relaxation methods (e.g., meditation, yoga, reading, listening to music, journaling, etc.) as you can to figure out what resonates with you best. Research has found that meditation can help lower blood pressure, reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, improve insomnia, and more.
- Exercise: regular exercise can not only help you remain physically fit, but also provides a natural release of endorphins, elevating your mood and reducing anxiety.
- Breathe: focus on slowing down your breath to help pull your focus away from your symptoms and onto your breath.
- Challenge your negative, anxious thoughts: identify the anxious thoughts that surface when you think of social situations, analyze them, and challenge them to discern if your initial reaction is truly how you feel or if you are just assuming the worst.
- Focus on others, not yourself: switching from an internal to an external focus can go a long way toward reducing social anxiety.
If you are experiencing frequent and/ or severe bouts of social anxiety, it is best to err on the side of caution and obtain an evaluation from a qualified mental health professional. Despite the availability of effective treatments, data suggests that fewer than 5% of people of with social anxiety disorder pursue treatment in the year following its initial onset and more than a third of people report symptoms for 10 or more years before getting help. If left untreated, social anxiety disorder can lead to adverse short- and long-term physiological consequences.
For Information and Support
If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.
Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.