Social Anxiety: What Is It And How To Deal With It?

Social Anxiety: what is it and how to deal with it?

What is social anxiety? It is a disorder characterized by an intense terror towards social situations, in which the affected person believes that they will be evaluated or judged by others. Social anxiety can seriously affect the quality of life, since it damages social relationships.

We’re not just talking about shyness. While shyness is a personality characteristic and, in principle, it does not generate significant discomfort in the person (and, in any case, it does not prevent them from continuing with their life peacefully), social anxiety entails restlessness and anguish that are often disabling.

Social anxiety: some tips to deal with it

Social anxiety can be a real challenge for those who suffer from it. However, there are some strategies that can help you face and overcome it. However, it is best that you go to a professional to guide you appropriately based on your personal case.

1. Understand social anxiety

Before proceeding to confront it, the most important thing is to understand what social anxiety is and how it works. Education on mental health issues is essential since it provides the necessary knowledge that allows recognizing the patterns of each disorder.

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2. Cognitive-behavioral therapy

This type of therapy has proven to be very effective for social anxiety, since it affects the change of negative thinking patterns and allows the development of strategies and skills that facilitate addressing the problem.

3. Exposure Therapy

On the other hand, the so-called Exposure Therapy (that is, the gradual coping with situations that generate terror) is also useful, since it makes a scale of progress from the least feared to those that represent a greater challenge for the person. This reprograms the brain and “makes it understand” that these situations do not entail any danger.

4. Social skills practice

Once confidence has improved and we feel capable of dealing with certain situations, practicing social skills is crucial to becoming stronger. For example, talk with friends who generate true trust, maintaining eye contact. If it is difficult at first, we can practice in front of a mirror.

5. Relaxation techniques

Some relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, calm the nervous system and therefore help reduce anxiety.

6. Set goals that are realistic

In the process of facing fears it is important to set goals that are realistic. If we focus on perfection or want to improve “suddenly”, we will achieve nothing. Better focus on small day-to-day goals ; They will help you a lot to strengthen your self-confidence.

7. Identify thoughts that are irrational

Recognizing the irrational thoughts that appear in our mind is a very important step, since it is these thoughts that trigger anxiety. When something like “these people are talking badly about me” or “they are judging me” comes to mind, ask yourself if these are real concerns. Is there any evidence to support this?

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8. Let off steam

Emotional burdens are sometimes too heavy to carry alone. If you need to, share what you feel with trusted people with whom you feel supported and loved.

9. Practice self-compassion

Self-pity has nothing to do with feeling sorry for yourself. Rather it is trying not to be so strict with ourselves ; We are not worse people if we feel social anxiety. Speak to yourself with kindness and affection.

10. Imagine positively

If you imagine the situation that creates anxiety in a positive way before addressing it, you will help your body calm down.

11. Establish daily routines that bring you well-being

Routines are great allies in stressful situations, as they help relax the mind. Get used to doing them regularly: listening to calm music, relaxation, positive thinking, walks in the park, etc.

12. Practice acceptance

Anxiety is inevitably linked to what is called “intolerance of uncertainty.” That is, people with anxious tendencies need to believe that they are in control of everything. Unfortunately, not everything in life is controllable, so accepting it will help you reduce your anxiety.

13. Look for individual strategies

Each person is different, so not all strategies work the same for everyone. See which ones suit you well and put them into practice.

What are the characteristics of social anxiety?

Although, as we have already mentioned, the effects and characteristics vary depending on the person, there are some that are common to social anxiety in general:

How does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy work with social anxiety?

We have already mentioned that cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most used and effective to treat social anxiety. Its basis is the idea that emotions, thoughts and behaviors are closely linked, so if negative thought patterns are modified, a positive change in behavior and emotions will be favored.

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The therapist works during the sessions with negative thought patterns, that is, with those that are distorted and related to social anxiety; for example, catastrophic thoughts and/or expectations that are unrealistic or overly perfectionist.

Once these patterns are identified, intense work is done to achieve their restructuring; that is, change them for others that are much more functional and realistic.

Gradual exposure is also worked on in cognitive-behavioral therapy. It is about gradually exposing yourself to situations that generate anxiety, from the least worrying to those that produce greater terror.

By going little by little, the person learns to manage these fears and develops coping strategies. Likewise, it is common to also work on social skills (active listening, emotional expression, communication…).

An attempt is also made to motivate the patient to practice a “mental rehearsal”; that is, the prior visualization of the situation in a positive way, accompanied by relaxation techniques to reduce the anxious response. Likewise, in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, realistic and, therefore, achievable goals are favored, small advances are celebrated, and the terror of social evaluation is worked on.

Preventing falls is a main topic when addressing treatment since the patient must be prepared to face a possible relapse and maintain long-term motivation.

Finally, the therapy will last depending on the person’s needs. Usually, cognitive-behavioral therapy is focused on objectives and, therefore, is short-term. And, above all, the therapist must encourage the patient to actively participate in the entire process.