Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is a serious psychological condition that’s more common than many realise. Those who suffer from it dread interaction with people and social situations, or they may feel uncomfortable at the thought itself. Those with no clue what it feels like might find it odd that someone could sweat profusely or suffer a drop in blood pressure just at the thought of having to order food. But such can be part of the reality of living with social anxiety. Let’s look at this condition, the feelings it can cause, and some self-help tips to cope with social anxiety and help make life less stressful.  

  1. They feel misunderstood- Those of us who don’t suffer from social anxiety can’t begin to understand what others go through, and it’s precisely this feeling of isolation that is one of the biggest obstacles in overcoming it.
  2. They don’t know what’s normal- When you suffer from social anxiety, being unable to meet new people or visit public spaces is one thing, but some people break into a sweat when they need to make a phone call.
  3. They know about vicious cycles- Sufferers of social anxiety know that their thoughts and actions aren’t rational, but they’re trapped. Changing is tough because they don’t know how to… or can’t.
  4. They feel alienated- Peers, colleagues, friends, family, strangers on the bus – everyone is on the other side of the fence.
  5. They’re sensitive to criticism- The default setting for someone with social anxiety is irrational negativity, which means that the most well-intentioned advice can be interpreted as a personal attack.
  6. They have skewed perceptions of failure- Small mistakes are amplified, and big ones can have disastrous implications. A person with social anxiety tends to think about a typo for days, but he might never get over a bad date or a missed opportunity.
  7. They fear the future- Despite that their brains often conjure negative outcomes for events that haven’t even happened yet, people with social anxiety can’t help but fixate on what’s to come. Anticipation only adds to the anxiety.
  8. They’re uncertain of themselves- Low self-esteem is common among those with social anxiety, which can hold them back from golden opportunities and exciting situations. They may come across as shy at best and snobbish at worst.
  9. They dread the spotlight- The thought of prominence and being the centre of attention can cripple someone with social anxiety. That’s why they dread giving speeches or asking someone out on a date.
  10. They care what we think- The opinions of others can matter greatly to those with social anxiety, and they’ll often second-guess every last word or decision.

Social anxiety varies in severity, and one could identify with just one of these feelings to a slight degree but still have the condition. If you or someone you know has social anxiety, check out these tips that can make life a little bit easier.

  1. Consider the impact- Perfection, approval, control – these are the three things people with social anxiety seek above all else. If you identify with this, try to analyse how it’s affecting your life.
  2. Establish order- By not doing anything, you leave yourself open to overthinking things. Stay busy; this way, you’re less likely to obsess over trivial matters. Keep a check on idle time with an activity log.
  3. Let go- Control allows us to feel less vulnerable; but dictating life isn’t the natural order. Preparing for potential pitfalls is wise, but going overboard can create undue stress, exacerbating the anxiety.
  4. Check your reaction- You can’t control life, but you can decide how you react to what life throws at you. You don’t need to be the victim. Realise that you are responsible for your own happiness, and seek it out.
  5. Keep the faith- Trust in oneself is the foundation of inner security. Believe in your abilities, and take small but calculated risks to build up your self-esteem. Remember that even the smallest steps are progress.
  6. Ease the mind- There’s extensive scientific documentation that yoga has positive effects on stress, both mental and physical. Music and art can also be therapeutic. The key is to relax.
  7. Know the truth- Being able to distinguish reality from fantasy is crucial. If you forget your name when introducing yourself, the reality is you haven’t destroyed your reputation.
  8. Be you- Quit trying to make everyone else happy, especially if that means having to change who you are. If you’re the type to acquiesce when all you want is to say ‘no’, start trying to turn people down. They’ll live.  

– Ashwin