Overcoming social anxiety

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Health Assured team

17 June 2022

Social anxiety disorder (or social phobia) is a common mental health problem. It is characterised as an overwhelming fear of social situations. Estimates suggest that approximately 12% of people struggle with social anxiety. This disorder can impact the lives of those affected by impeding everyday activities such as work.

Social anxiety is more than being shy or not wanting to talk to others. It can be a debilitating and often irrational fear. Dealing with this condition can be strenuous. It frequently occurs alongside other mental health problems such as depression and panic disorder. In this article, we will explain what social anxiety is, how it manifests itself and how to overcome it.

 

Identifying the symptoms

Social anxiety disorder can affect anyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or social status. It typically starts in childhood or adolescence – with most people experiencing symptoms before they are 20 years old. However, this is not always the case; individuals can develop the disorder in later life. 

Being a psychological condition, social anxiety is invisible to the naked eye, making it difficult to notice when someone is suffering. Nevertheless, people with social anxiety often display various physical and emotional symptoms. Here are some of the common signs and symptoms associated with social anxiety disorder:

  • Worrying intensely about social situations
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • A sense of being judged or watched constantly
  • Missing work because of anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Avoiding eye contact or staying quiet

These symptoms can affect every aspect of life. If you’re suffering from any of these issues, the bravest thing you can do is tackle them before they become a bigger problem. Remember, you are not alone. Many other people are going through the same emotions and struggling to find the best way to cope.

 

How to overcome social anxiety?

For many people, social anxiety is a life-long condition. The feelings and behaviours associated with the disorder often persist, seeping into everyday life, negatively impacting work, relationships, and social life. While there is no precise treatment or cure for social anxiety, there are ways to help yourself. Here we will provide some strategies to help you overcome social anxiety:  

 

Talk to your support network

Friends and family often play a vital role in protecting our mental health, helping foster a sense of belonging and purpose. These individuals encompass your support network – a group of people who provide mental, emotional, and practical support whenever you need it. Talking about your mental health can be an embarrassing or uncomfortable process. However, according to the Mental Health Foundation, talking about your feelings can promote good mental wellbeing, helping you overcome the negative feelings associated with social anxiety.

 

Check in with yourself

Another approach to overcoming social anxiety involves checking in with yourself. It includes setting aside time to understand how you feel and become attuned to your emotions. By taking this time, you can tackle any negative feelings before they spiral into debilitating fear or anxiety. Life can be busy, work and personal issues become overwhelming, and our feelings often fall by the wayside. You must take time out of your schedule to check in with yourself and help calm your mind.

 

Relaxation techniques

This can be a powerful approach to calm your mind and take note of how you feel. These techniques can have both physical and mental advantages. One example of a relaxation technique includes meditation. Research shows that mediation is effective for improving social skills. One study found that meditation can help reduce rumination and boost self-esteem in people who suffer from social anxiety. As a result, relaxation techniques such as meditation can help you feel more confident and comfortable in social situations.  

 

Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to make a difference in your community and benefit yourself. While volunteering itself can be difficult for those struggling with social anxiety. It can help build relationships and foster confidence in social settings. In a recent study involving 10,000 volunteers, 68% of participants agreed that volunteering helped them feel less isolated. The same research found that 77% of participants agreed that volunteering had improved their mental health and wellbeing. As a result, volunteering can help alleviate the feelings associated with loneliness and gives you a sense of purpose.

 

Seek treatment

Dealing with social anxiety can be overwhelming. If you feel like the above methods are not working for you (and you feel ready to do so), you should consider seeking treatment from a mental health professional. Therapists can help you recognise where these negative feelings come from and help you implement strategies to get past them. They can also help you understand the commonality of conditions like social anxiety. Remember, approximately 12% of people are affected by this disorder; many of your colleagues likely feel the same way.

 

Health and wellbeing support from Health Assured 

Want to find out more? Our Employee Assistance (EAP) offers a 24/7 counselling helpline that can support health and wellbeing.

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