If you have ever felt nervous before presenting a speech in class or a report in a team meeting, or felt your heart race as you pull up to a first date or before a conversation with your supervisor, you are familiar with the experience of Social Anxiety.
Social Anxiety comes about in situations where we become concerned about what people will say or think about us. To a certain degree, Social Anxiety is a normal part of life and a small amount of anxiety can be quite beneficial to help us prepare and motivate us to perform better. For many, this anxiety typically appears leading up to an event like those mentioned above, but as we continue through the presentation or speech, the anxiety slowly lessens and becomes easier to manage.
For others, however, this anxiety can be so crippling that it prevents us from meeting new people, striving toward advances in career, or pursuing romantic relationships because the fear of rejection is so powerful. This is called Social Anxiety Disorder.
What is the difference between normal anxiety or being introverted and Social Anxiety Disorder?
An introverted person typically prefers a calmer and minimally stimulating setting. This does not insinuate that they never are in highly stimulating settings, but it may mean that they need some time to recharge and replenish after something like a large party. It is more common for introverts to feel some anxiety around going outside their comfort zone in these kinds of situations. Some may worry, overthink, or over-prepare for situations like this. When this anxiety is persistent or intensifies it can present itself as Social Anxiety.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Social Anxiety Disorder is characterized by symptoms of anxiety or intense fear in performance-based or all Social Situations that do not subside and interfere with daily life. Some physical symptoms of Social anxiety Disorder include but are not limited to tachycardia (rapid heart rate), nausea, sweating, face flushing hives, shaking or trembling, and trouble breathing.
Some examples of social situations that may trigger these symptoms include: interacting with new people, attending a job interview, dating, or doing everyday tasks where other people are present like answering questions in class, making appointments over the phone, or interacting with a cashier in a store.
Those who suffer from Social Anxiety disorder experience fear so intensely that their symptoms are beyond their control. As a result, those afflicted dread and avoid social situations and this has a major impact on their daily life, thus making it difficult to have meaningful relationships and meet personal goals for themselves.
Managing Social Anxiety Disorder and seeking out help
The first major step in seeking out support is to see a medical professional and rule out any medical condition that may be causing your symptoms. Once this has been ruled out, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Psychotherapy is an effective method in treating and working through social anxiety and can help you work toward overcoming fear to live to your potential.
If you feel this may resonate with you, Our clinicians here at Gateway to Solutions are here and ready to help navigate how different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to situations can be useful in treatment.