Situations that are simple, such as having lunch with colleagues or meeting a new person, can cause intense feelings of self-doubt, embarrassment, inhibition, and more. Calming fear in social environments can feel impossible, but with the right tactics you are well on your way to fully enjoying social atmospheres.
What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety, also called social phobia, is a form of anxiety disorder that is accompanied by fear of interaction with other people. People with social anxiety can be afraid of being judged negatively or analyzed by other people, and they can come across as shy, silent, nervous or even distant.
Some people diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder may also feel anxiety in social situations. The main difference between these two disorders is that people with social anxiety usually have no fear of other things, while people with generalized anxiety feel anxious about many different things.
However, having one of these disorders is not necessarily a requirement for having anxiety in social environments – people without either of these disorders can occasionally experience social anxiety in situations that are particularly uncomfortable for them, such as speak in front of a large audience.
In any case, it is important to understand whether the fear is situational or persistent.
Rachel Wright, a qualified psychotherapist and co-owner of Wright Wellness Center, told CNET that it is normal to experience anxiety in unfamiliar situations, but when it interferes with the things you want to do every day (such as meeting friends for happy hour) or go for a group show), it is important to seek help from a mental health professional.
Anxiety in Social Environments
Laura Rhodes-Levin, a recognized marriage and family therapist and founder of The Missing Peace Center, told CNET that calming social anxiety is all about pulling yourself away from your thoughts.
"The key is to provoke yourself from your frontal cortex, the thinking part of the brain that you say you are uncomfortable and calm your body to become present," Rhodes-Levin said. "… Try to focus on what others are talking about to help distract you. Breathe calmly and remember, no one else knows what's happening in your head."
Her tips for calming anxiety in social environments include wearing an aromatherapy necklace that can be casually lifted with your hand to activate calming neurotransmitters; hold something cold in your hand or put your hands around a cold glass; and play counting games, such as testing yourself to see how many shades of blue you can see.
Wright's three most important tips for soothing social anxiety are: knowing yourself well and understanding your anxiety:
1. Take a moment to get some air and breathe
Whether outside or in the bathroom, give yourself the grace that you can step out of the social situation to breathe. 2 minutes of breathing can reset your nervous system.
2. Plan ahead
Decide whether you want a non-negotiable leave time or whether you want to play it by ear. When it comes to social anxiety, it can sometimes be useful to know when and how to leave a party or gathering. If you can decide this before you enter the situation, it helps to limit the amount of thinking and anxiety at the moment.
3. Understand what your anxiety is all about
Investigate the possible causes of your anxiety, especially if it has a specific trigger, and finish it off with a therapist, coach, friend or someone else who can help.
In addition, you can try these other tactics to calm anxiety in social environments:
- Where possible, attend events with a trusted friend or relative . This must be someone with whom you feel comfortable and someone who knows
- Recognize that nobody is perfect. Social anxiety and perfectionism often co-exist and the release of perfectionism can be the key to overcoming social anxiety.
- Talk for yourself . Social anxiety is often accompanied by self-shameful thoughts, such as "They think I'm stupid" or "Nobody here likes me." Push those thoughts out and give yourself compliments instead. Try "That story I just told was really funny" or "I see and feel great in this outfit."
Recognizing social anxiety and receiving treatment
If you have social anxiety or generalized anxiety caused by social interaction, even the best tactics may not be enough. If you are not sure whether you have social anxiety, pay attention to the following signs:
- Avoidance Behavior: You avoid social events and interactions as much as possible.
- Escape Behavior: You often leave events, such as parties, dinners, or concerts, shortly after arriving due to anxious feelings.
- Safety behavior: You feel that you always need distraction during social events. For example, you always have a drink or a plate of food at a party, or you need to always play on your phone during informal events.
- Physical symptoms: In social environments, you start to sweat, get dizzy or light-headed, experience abdominal pain or experience other physical symptoms in addition to feelings of anxiety.
- Prediction fear: You make yourself nervous before you arrive at an event by thinking things like "I'm going to mess it up" or "I have nothing to talk about."  According to the Social Anxiety Association, it is proven that only cognitive behavioral therapy treats social anxiety effectively and permanently. Cognitive behavioral therapy involves changing the thinking and behavioral patterns behind your difficulties. If you already have a
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified health care professional for any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.you can also discuss medication if you think it might help.