Social anxiety, or social phobia, affects 15 million adults each year and is an extreme experience of anxiety and discomfort during social interactions or even at the thought of social interaction. Often times accompanied by extreme physical symptoms such as nausea, sweating and upset stomach, social anxiety is far more than typical shyness. Those who are socially anxious have an extreme and often times irrational fear of being negatively judged as stupid, awkward or boring and will go to extreme lengths to avoid social situations and public speaking. Those affected with social anxiety will often ruminate on social interactions after the fact to check for anything ‘stupid’ they may have said or done.
Common signs and symptoms of Social Anxiety:
· Fear of being judged as “stupid,” “awkward,” or of being negatively evaluated
· Exaggerated fear of what others may think
· Sweating, heart pounding or thoughts racing when in social situations or anticipating attending social events
· Difficulty with interviews, dating and socializing
· Panic attacks
· Excessive rumination after social events
Treatment for Social Anxiety
In a society where extroversion is highly prized, experiencing social anxiety can be quite debilitating. Oftentimes to avoid the negative feelings associated with social anxiety, the sufferer will retreat further and further into isolation, a negative cycle which can contribute to depression as well. The good news is that Social Anxiety is highly treatable through the use of Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT) to challenge faulty thinking patterns (ex: “everyone at the party thinks I’m stupid”), Mindfulness and Acceptance therapy strategies to accept the presence of anxiety, and Exposure and Response prevention (ERP) to gradually expose the client to their feared scenarios, a more fulfilling and less anxiety filled life is possible.