Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also known as social phobia, is a recognized psychological condition affecting millions of people. Victims experience intense fear of certain social situations, particularly those situations that are unfamiliar or in which the victim feels he/she will be watched or evaluated by others.
This condition is closely linked to another anxiety disorder known as generalized social phobia (GSD), which is characterized by persistent and difficult control of worry and anxiety, as well as a variety of other signs and symptoms like difficulty in concentrating, irritability, and sleep problems.
Fortunately no matter how painfully shy you might be and no matter how severe the symptoms, you can learn to be comfortable in social situations and overcome SAD and hopefully reclaim your life. Here are 7 tips on how to cure social anxiety.
7 Tips on How to Cure Social Anxiety
TIP #1 – Face your fears
Research has shown that facing our social discomforts is the most effective way to get over them. Ignoring your fears and hoping that they’ll go away just won’t work. Instead of avoiding nerve-wracking situations, you should seek them so you can learn how to cope.
So go out there and put yourself in those seemingly awkward social situations. Tell your unconscious mind that this is “normal”.
TIP #2 – Learn to control your breath
You’ve heard it a million times – deep breathe before an anxiety-provoking social situation. But don’t hyper-focus on deep breathing, as it could throw off the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body, exacerbating symptoms of anxiety.
The best way to go about it is to learn to control your breath so you can stay calm when you’re the center of attention.
TIP #3 – Avoid negative thoughts
Social phobia sufferers tend to harbor negative thoughts that inhibit their ability to interact with other people. If you have SAD, or social phobia, you may find yourself constantly overwhelmed by negative thoughts like: “I will end up looking stupid”, “I’ll seem boring” or “My voice will begin to shake and I’ll humiliate myself”. You must challenge these thoughts to overcome your problem. Also, be yourself! Don’t try to be funny, or imitate someone else.
Tell yourself you don’t have to be perfect, and don’t be afraid to make a bit of a fool of yourself. This will help you become more socially confident.
TIP #4 – Have objective goals
Focus on what you want to say or do, rather than what people think about you. Don’t let your feeling of anxiety disqualify the positive. You might do well, even great, but because of your anxious feelings, you see your performance as abysmal. Remember you can’t control how other people are going to react, but you can be glad you did what you wanted to in a particular situation. Also, try having a rational outlook in life. Switch off your imagination. Trying imagining what others are thinking of you won’t help your situation.
Unrealistic thoughts that are irrationally negative (or positive) will undermine your performance and fuel your anxiety. Start cultivating a rational or realistic perspective to improve your condition, and grow in the process.
TIP #5 – Build better relationships
Have trustworthy friends who you can talk to about your social discomforts. Sharing with someone you trust and also admires you can be very helpful in overcoming social anxiety. Such a person could also give you the encouragement and support that you need to begin tackling your problem.
In addition, keep actively seeking out and joining supportive social environments and don’t forget to work on your communication skills to enhance your social confidence and assertiveness.
TIP #6– Consider changing your lifestyle
Lifestyle changes, including getting adequate sleep, quitting smoking, drinking only in moderation and limiting or avoiding caffeine, can greatly help support overall treatment for social anxiety disorder.
TIP #7– Use self-tests and self-help manuals
Tests can be undertaken to differentiate between symptoms of generalized social phobia and those of social anxiety disorder. The social anxiety test is a “self-test”, which is designed to assist adults in determining if they may be experiencing symptoms related to social anxiety.
Similarly, the social phobia test is designed to assist in identifying experiences common to social phobia, and can help determine whether or not a person meets the diagnostic criteria for having this condition.
These tests and manuals can be very beneficial in diagnosing and treating the said anxiety disorders. They are actually designed to supplement therapy and provide great tools for working on your own.
However, it’s worth noting that if the process of overcoming social phobia becomes overwhelming or interferes with normal functioning, consultation with a qualified psychiatrist usually is the best approach.
Professional counselors use cognitive behavioral therapy to help clients incrementally assess and examine their fears of social situations, easing them into social engagement. In some cases, medication might be necessary to reduce the debilitating effects of anxiety