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It is normal to feel slightly anxious or nervous when we know we are going to be judged on our abilities or character as a person. For example, you might feel nervous meeting your future in-laws for the first time, or if you have to speak in front of a crowd, or go on a first date. This type of anxiety is healthy, as it prepares you to focus on doing your best. However, some people experience increased anxiety in a number of social situations, even in everyday ordinary social interactions. This is called Social Anxiety or Social Phobia.
What are the signs and symptoms of Social Anxiety?
- Fear of being judged or criticised by others. This leads to self-doubt when you are in social situations and afterwards. You might worry that you said something to offend the other person, or that you sound stupid or boring.
- Feeling anxious in the lead-up or during social situations (including performance-based situations). For example, you might notice you get sweaty palms, flushed around the face and neck, your heart might race and your hands might shake.
- Sensitivity to feeling judged by others. You might pick up on subtle tones or gestures in social situations and immediately assume they relate to you. For example, you may assume if someone was quiet that they did not like you or were annoyed by something you said.
How does Social Anxiety affect me?
- Avoiding social situations. People with social anxiety may cancel plans or avoid scheduling them all together. It is also common to create safety precautions in social situations. For example, you might invite your friend to a party when you do not know many people, or you may make an excuse as to why you need to leave early.
- Discomfort being yourself. You find it difficult to relax and talk openly and honestly about your life or opinions. Some people find they feel defensive and withdraw socially as a way of coping. Whereas others may find they go into ‘over-drive’ to try and be friendly and entertaining.
- Your social confidence can affect your relationship quality. For example, you may avoid being assertive about your needs, leaving yourself feeling frustrated and let down by others. You may also find you need to seek excessive reassurance from friends and partners.
- Social anxiety can impact on your career and study goals. You may avoid taking career risks – for example, you might fear being humiliated in an interview or presentation, causing you to avoid it all together. You may be overpowered by dominant people in the workplace, who perceive you as having low social confidence and take advantage of your difficulty to speak up.
How can I treat my Social Anxiety?
There are several well-researched treatments that are effective in treating Social Anxiety, including: Cognitive-behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Self-Help, Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) and medication.
How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help?
We are experienced and trained in treating psychological difficulties like Social Anxiety. If you are experiencing Social Anxiety and would like some professional assistance contact us at Peaceful Mind Psychology.