As many places begin lifting pandemic restrictions, it’s easy to feel a variety of different feelings. You might feel excited, nervous, anxious, and relieved all at the same time. In truth, it can feel pretty overwhelming.
And for those of us that haven’t socialized in a while… The anxiety might feel all too real. After all, it’s been years since we’ve had any “normal” social gatherings. It can feel foreign and odd to be around new people or to be gathering in larger groups than we’re used to.
So, if you’re struggling with social anxiety — or think you might be — this article is for you! We’re going to dive into what it is, the types, the causes, and how you can manage it in your life.
Social anxiety refers to how everyday interactions can lead to fear, anxiety, embarrassment, and even avoidance (such as avoiding social situations due to fear and anxiety). Inevitably, not everyone has a social anxiety disorder. In fact, social discomfort or anxiety in certain situations is completely normal.
So, what sets it apart from regular-day nerves? How do you know if you have it? Below, we take a look at a few of the symptoms, helping you determine if it is what you’re feeling.
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Some common symptoms include:
Experts tend to agree that there are two main distinctions between types of social anxiety disorders. In generalized anxiety disorders, individuals tend to fear the majority of social situations. In non-generalized anxiety disorders, individuals often only fear specific social situations, such as public speaking or talking on the phone.
Generalized anxiety more frequently leads to disruption in a person’s life, since they may avoid any social gathering or any situation outside their comfort zone (such as their home). Yet, there are all types of social anxieties.
Some common examples of social anxiety include:
If any of the above or similar situations lead to anxious feelings, you might be experiencing social anxiety. So, why does this happen in the first place?
You might be more prone if:
Additionally, it’s thought that individuals with social anxiety may have an overactive amygdala, the part of the brain that is responsible for the fear response, which can cause increased anxiety in social situations.
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Treatment can involve an array of approaches. In fact, it’s usually about finding a good balance that works for you and can help you overcome those anxious thoughts and feelings. These treatments or methods may include:
You by no means need to go all out and attend that first house party right off the bat. If you’re feeling anxious, give yourself time and space. Try hanging out with a friend or two, and gradually build up that social tolerance again.
It can also help to gradually expose yourself to situations that make you feel uncomfortable (but not too uncomfortable) to help push your comfort zone. For example, before attending that big wedding with hundreds of people, try hanging out with a couple friends, then a bigger group, then maybe try going to a restaurant and so on. This can really help!
Some of the best therapy involves working with a professional, someone who can offer you tips and tricks that you can use during those anxious moments.
For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help change the way you think about a situation, which, in turn, can change how you feel about it. This can turn socially anxious situations into fun and happy events, where you aren’t fearful of what could or couldn’t happen.
The last two years haven’t been easy. Yet, practicing positive self-talk and showing yourself a little compassion can go a long way. Give yourself some time to ease back into a “normal” social life. Take the pressure off. If you’re really not feeling it, give yourself a self-care night full of your favorite shows, a warm bath, and more.
Use your support system if you need it, especially if you’re feeling anxious and they are there with you. Talk to them before the social event and let them know what’s going on. True friends will be there for you and help you through it.
There’s no rush to jump back into every Friday night happy hour or every Sunday brunch. Take your time. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.” In other words, take it one day and one stride at a time. You’ve got this.
August 8, 2022
August 6, 2022