Do you get fearful when talking to strangers? Are you uncomfortable at parties? You may have social anxiety. While it’s common to feel some discomfort in certain situations, those with a social anxiety disorder have an irrational fear of human interaction that blocks their ability to enjoy life, make new friends, and be comfortable in their own skin.
An estimated 15 million American adults suffer from social anxiety. It is the second most common form of anxiety. Symptoms usually start during adolescence, and approximately 66% of individuals diagnosed with social anxiety have another type of mental health issue, often depression.
In this article, we’ll explain what social anxiety is, the “triggers” that can bring on symptoms, and what you can do to combat these fears so that you can meet new friends and maintain those friendships.
Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as social phobia, manifests as fear, discomfort, and extreme self-consciousness in any kind of social setting. This affliction includes worrying about being judged by others, and this level of anxiety can interfere with normal functioning, affecting the person’s daily life and their relationships.
Social anxiety triggers include meeting new people, interacting with classmates or co-workers, public speaking, attending parties, going out on dates, and going on a job interview.
Symptoms may include a fast heartbeat, trembling, muscle twitches, dizziness, nausea, dry mouth, and sweating. One may experience a panic attack, anxiety, fear, and what is known as dysmorphia—a preoccupation with a small or even imagined defect in the body. There may be behavioral changes, such as avoiding certain activities and becoming isolated.
Fortunately, there are ways to combat your social phobia so that you can feel more comfortable, make new friends, and maintain your friendships through continued interaction. Here are five tips that you can use to overcome your social anxiety.
1. Practice Deep Breathing – If you begin to feel anxious, sit comfortably, relax your shoulders and breathe in slowly through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and then breathe out through your mouth for several seconds. Breathe into and out of your stomach and not your chest.
2. Try Yoga – This form of exercise is calming, and it can lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Studies have shown that practicing yoga for a few months can lower your anxiety as well as quiet the mind, because yoga is a kind of moving meditation that involves the breath.
3. Plan Your Social Situations – To help you relax, prepare for upcoming social activities. Before you go out to a party or to meet new people, use a relaxation technique like meditation, yoga or deep breathing to calm yourself down and see things more clearly before you leave your house.
4. Focus on Others Instead of Yourself – To feel more comfortable and less self-conscious in social situations, concentrate on what others are saying, rather than what’s going on in your head. Focusing your attention on others will not only relax you—it will encourage their friendship.
5. List All Your Fears from 0 to 10 – Start with activities you don’t fear at all and slowly move up one by one, as you practice each activity and observe your feelings. You may not be as fearful as you thought. Continue until your fear subsides—and reward yourself for each achievement!
With practice, you will be able to conquer your social anxiety so that you can open yourself to new friends and long-lasting, fulfilling relationships.