We all may not be aware of something: social anxiety is a form of anxiety that has to do with expecting to be judged and expecting that the outcome will not be too good.
This sort of fear and anxiety and worry may occur in any social situation, and may have started when the individual was still a child.
Take the example of Bobby.Â He was a nice looking man, in his early thirties, and when I spoke to him, he told me that he could trace his social anxiety related shyness back to his childhood years, and his actual anxiety of being with people and of being judged unfavorably by people he didnâ€™t know, to his teenage years.
Bobby happened to meet a sociable girl, fell in love with her, and married her. He started to depend on his wife to use her social skills for both of them; even simple things like booking an appointment with a dentist were handled by his wife.
If there was a parent teacher meeting at school, Bobbyâ€™s wife attended. This way, Bobby was actually able to avoid most situations where his social anxiety would show up, but this was not the right approach at all, as Bobby discovered to his dismay when he was called up by his manager for a minor problem in the workplace.
His social anxiety left him sweating and fumbling for words, and he did indeed gave off a wrong impression. Some of his other symptoms, when he was put in a social situation were:
- Muscle tension
- Rapid heartbeat
- Stomach upset
- Dry mouth
- Great difficulty in making eye contact
Social anxiety was an ongoing problem in Bobbyâ€™s life, and although he was aware of it, and he berated himself about it every time, he was not able to overcome it.
However, therapy, in which he was taught cognitive strategies helped Bobby a great deal, and today, he is a well adjusted young man, an active parent, and a sociable individual, who can handle any situation comfortably, without getting too anxious or frightened about it.
These are some of the symptoms that indicate social anxiety. Do you have a problem in any of these areas?
- Talking to people in authority
- Meeting and making friends with new people
- Developing close relationships
- Answering the telephone, or making a simple phone call
- Eating and drinking in public, where there are several people around
- Using a public toilet
If you feel that you or someone you love suffers from any of these symptoms over a period of time, then consult a physician immediately; he will be able to help and guide you. Remember, this is a treatable disorder, and therefore, there is nothing to worry about.
Here are some strategies to help you or your loved one overcome your social anxiety:
- Examine your speaking skills. Do you really think you have a bad voice, or is your problem related to anxiety about how you will speak to a stranger, in public? If so, then try to convince yourself that everyone makes mistakes. You are not alone!
- I know you may think I am being silly, but try to make some gaffe in public, deliberately, the next time you are in a social situation. How many people did you observe looking at you? Did you become the center of attention? Or did everyone simply mind their own business? See, everyone makes mistakes, and there is no need for you to feel singled out, and anxious about your actions.
- Try to be aware of your anticipatory anxiety, which is a part of the social anxiety that we are talking about, and prepare for it by thinking of various situations where you would perform actions that would perhaps bring attention on you. Be prepared for the anxiety, and when you finally face the situation, you will be shocked at the simplicity involved. There is nothing to be anxious about, if you look at things in their right perspective.
- Learn relaxation techniques or meditation. These will help you a great deal in overcoming your anxiety and nervousness.
- Take up some form of exercise; exercise is always good for you, and it will make you look at the positive side of life.
- Your physician may prescribe anti-depressants for you. Make use of these.
Your life is yours, to make what you can out of it. Develop a positive attitude, and remember, you are not alone, and there are many others like you.
It is all a matter of looking at things in their proper perspective. Never give up hope.