Social anxiety is a common but often misunderstood mental health condition that can have a significant impact on a person's daily life. While it may be common to think of social anxiety as simply being shy or nervous in social situations, it is actually much more complex and multifaceted.
According to psychologist Dr. Alice Boyes, "Social anxiety is the fear of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people, leading to feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, self-consciousness, embarrassment, and depression."
Maintaining good social connections is crucial for our overall health and happiness. Whether it's hanging out with friends and family or finding a sense of community online, having supportive people in our lives can help reduce stress, boost our mental health, and increase overall happiness. On the flip side, a lack of social support or unhealthy relationships can take a major toll on our mental health and increase the risk of developing issues like depression and anxiety. So, it's important to prioritize and cultivate positive social relationships in order to support both mental and physical health.
Here are 5 hidden truths about people with social anxiety.
1. It's not just about being nervous in social situations.
People with social anxiety often experience extreme fear and anxiety in a variety of everyday situations, such as speaking on the phone, making eye contact, or even using public restrooms.
2. It's not just a personality trait.
Social anxiety is a real mental health condition that can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, life experiences, and brain chemistry. Psychotherapist Dr. Margaret Wehrenberg notes, "Social anxiety is not a character flaw or a lack of social skills. It's a real medical condition that can be treated successfully with therapy and medication."
3. It's not just about being awkward or unprepared.
People with social anxiety often go to great lengths to prepare for social situations, but still struggle with intense anxiety and fear. This can include rehearsing what to say, obsessively checking their appearance, or avoiding social situations altogether. It is not a matter of simply being unprepared or lacking social skills.
4. It's not just about being nervous around new people.
People with social anxiety often struggle with anxiety in familiar social settings, such as with family or close friends.
5. It's not just about being introverted.
People with social anxiety can be extroverted or introverted - it's about the intensity of the anxiety and fear in social situations, not the person's overall personality.
Instead of avoiding social situations altogether, here are a few ways to manage social anxiety:
Gradually expose yourself to social situations. It can be overwhelming to jump into social situations headfirst, so start small and gradually build up your comfort level.
Challenge your negative thoughts and unhelpful thinking. Social anxiety often involves negative thinking patterns - work with a therapist or make use of mental health resources to challenge and reframe these thoughts. For instance, ask yourself, "How bad would that really be if it happened?"
Seek support from friends and family. It can be helpful to have a support system of people who understand and can provide emotional support during difficult times.
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Althea Therapy's Reclaim Program is a 5-week online program to calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety, all rooted in a culturally responsive approach. Learn more today.