Let’s Discuss Social Anxiety

Are you shy, or do you have a social disorder? While a lot of us can fall into the former category from time to time, the latter is actually a very real and scary thing. It is the reason why some people are scared to go out to a meeting, afraid of speaking to clients, reluctant to deliver a presentation, or petrified of going to social events. If this sounds like you often, then you might have this.

Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a kind of mental disorder where the sufferer is so afraid of being judged and ridiculed that they avoid all kinds of social situations. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, the fear is not even logical. And they might be afraid for being judged for all kinds of things – speech, actions, dress sense etc.

This kind of phobia gives sufferers a feeling of being trapped or shut away from the world. Now, don’t go mistaking this for normal shyness. Unlike being shy, social anxiety actually negatively affect the sufferer’s quality of life in a tangible way such that they avoid normal socialising due to fear, and not laziness, the latter of which I’m sometimes guilty of.

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In general, sufferers of social anxiety tend to display two broad types of symptoms – the emotional and the physical. The former includes things such as worrying about embarrassing or humiliating oneself, avoiding situations where one may be the centre of attention, fear that others will notice that they seem anxious, fear of situations in which they may be judged, fear of being in situations in which they don’t know anyone else, and anything that disrupts daily routine, work, school or other activities.

Unfortunately, there are also a lot of physical symptoms that may come for the ride too. They include perspiring profusely, feeling nauseous, trembling, blushing, having an upset tummy, having difficulty talking, sounding shaky and incoherent, feeling confused, having heart palpitations, having clammy and cold hands, being unable to establish eye contact and being tense in the muscles. What an affliction, isn’t it?

Along with this comes a variety of illogical thoughts, such as having an inferiority complex. Sufferers often report having conscious thoughts that everyone else is better and more confident than them. These thoughts can be so severe that it affects daily functions like eating, drinking, performing at work, asking questions, and even going to the bathroom when people are around.

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Fortunately, all is not lost for those who are afflicted with this condition. Over the past few decades, studies in counselling, also known as talk therapy, in combination with prescription drugs have proven to help with social anxiety issues. Some of these anti-depressants include Paroxetine, Sertraline and Venlafaxine. Anti-anxiety pills and beta blockers are also known to be useful.

Counselling is useful for educating sufferers about how to react best in situations that may be a trigger to their condition. This involves confronting the negative feelings head-on, and centres on the fear of being judged and scrutinised. Patients learn about how their thinking patterns contribute to symptoms of the disorder and ultimately, how to change their thinking so the symptoms begin to be reduced.

To conclude, shyness is actually normal. Getting past that stage is the challenge. If one is formally diagnosed as being socio-phobic, they have to realise that it is not something humiliating or shameful. They just need to build their confidence to a level by which they can function normally. With therapy, medication and a good support network, these conditions can be controlled.

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