What is Social Anxiety?
It is normal to feel nervous or shy in some situations such as meeting an idol, going on a date, or having a meeting with an important client. Unlike with the usual shyness, people with social anxiety experience more intense anxiety, self-consciousness, and stress while engaging in everyday social interactions.
In many cases, social anxiety can drive a person to avoid social interactions all together, often disrupting their work, school relationships, and activities in an effort to prevent feelings of anxiety, self-consciousness, and stress.
Typical shyness or discomfort in social situations does not necessarily indicate social anxiety. Everyone has different levels of outgoingness, some love the social scene while others prefer their own company or that of a few close friends.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety
In contract to everyday shyness, social anxiety is characterized by more intense feelings, such as:
Intense fear of engaging with strangers
Fear of embarrassing yourself
Fear of rejection
Obsessive worrying about something you said
Fear of being judged
Fear that others will notice your anxiety
Avoid situations where you might be the center of attention
Avoid unknown social situations
Avoid eye contact
Intense fear in anticipation of an event or social gathering
Expecting the worst from negative social interactions
Physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking, or increased heart rate.
Stuttering when spoken to or questioned
Social Anxiety in Children
Social anxiety in children may appear as inconsolable crying, clinging to a trusted caregiver or sibling, refusing to speak in social situations, or temper tantrums.
Treatment for Social Anxiety
The treatment necessary for social anxiety depends on how much the condition is impacting your daily life. Generally, there are 3 treatments that appear to be very effective for social anxiety: EMDR therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, and medication.
EMDR for Social Anxiety
One of the underlying factors of social anxiety are negative assumptions regarding certain social interactions, such as the belief that no one will like you, that you will embarrass yourself, or that you will be judged. These negative assumptions snowball into a host of worries that can eventually lead to avoidance of these situations.
EMDR allows for you and your therapist to explore the origins of your negative beliefs while regulating the anxiety response you may get from revisiting difficult memories. By exploring these memories and reducing the anxiety response, EMDR aims to replace the negative thoughts with more positive ones.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been shown to be one of the most effective treatments for social anxiety. A therapist can help a person recognize unhealthy thoughts and beliefs that affect them the most and replace them with helpful and productive thought patterns. Therapy can improve self-awareness, confidence, and coping skills when dealing with anxiety-inducing situations.