Social anxiety: The clues you may be suffering from this condition – and how to overcome i

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It’s normal to feel nervous when meeting a potential romantic partner for the first time, or conducting an interview over a video conference. However, social anxiety is much more severe.

The Mayo Clinic explains social anxiety causes “significant anxiety, fear, self-consciousness and embarrassment”.

With social anxiety, there is an underlying fear of being judged by other people.

This fear may lead to avoidance – avoiding social situations and people.

However, during lockdown this symptom of social anxiety can be masked by the adherence to government rules.

Looking back onto the first national lockdown, did you have a sense of unease as restrictions loosened?

Do you catch yourself thinking any of the following thoughts, pointed out by the Mayo Clinic?

  • I’m going to embarrass or humiliate myself
  • They’re going to judge me
  • People are going to notice I look anxious
  • The worst is going to happen, I just know it

An intense fear of taking to strangers isn’t shyness, nor is the fear of going red, sweating, trembling or having a shaky voice.

If you avoid doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment, it’s likely you have a social anxiety disorder.

Do you spend time after a social situation analysing your performance and identifying flaws in your interactions?

This too is a sign of social anxiety, as is enduring a social situation with intense fear or anxiety.

Physical sensations of the condition can include: blushing, a fast heartbeat, trembling, sweating or nausea.

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Some people may experience an upset stomach, dizziness, lightheadedness or feel as though their mind has gone blank.

People suffering from social anxiety may also notice that their muscles become tense during interactions.

In everyday situations, a person with social anxiety may find it difficult to make eye contact or to start conversations.

Simply returning items to a store can be an anxiety-provoking situation for people with the mental health condition.

Social anxiety can worsen during times of stress, and although avoiding anxiety-provoking situations can provide short-term relief, it’s not an effective long-term strategy.

In order to cope with social anxiety in a healthy manner, it’s important to seek help.

Avoid unhealthy substances which can make anxiety worse; these can include alcohol and drug use, caffeine and nicotine.

It may be helpful to keep a journal whereby you can keep track of any triggering situations, and what makes you feel at ease.

Treatment options include psychotherapy and/or medication, which can be prescribed by your doctor.

Psychotherapy seems to be the best way forward, as it can help you identify negative thought patterns and to challenge them.

Moreover, a therapist will be able to work with you so that you can gain confidence in social situations.

Over time, therapy can help you learn useful coping techniques that you can practise over a lifetime.

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