Photo by Priscilla Du Preez
You there, let me ask you a question, do you know what social anxiety is? Sure, you might have heard about this mental condition before but do you really understand what it is and how to face something like this? You probably don't because you don't go through it and that's totally fine because oh boy, you wouldn't want to deal with it! But whether you have social anxiety or not, this article serves as an insight for you. It delves into learning, and understanding what social anxiety is, how it is for someone who has it and what you can do for those who are facing the same thing! Here is your guide to social anxiety 101.
Definition of social anxiety
Now let's start off with the basics before diving in deeper. According to verywellmind, the acronym for social anxiety disorder is known as "SAD", ironic isn't it? Social anxiety involves a deep fear of social activities and performances in situations where others may negatively judge them.
Difference between social anxiety and plain shyness
There is a misconception within society that assumes social anxiety is mere shyness. But both are entirely different things. According to the Social Anxiety Institute, shyness and social anxiety have similarities, but there are distinct differences between the two. Shyness is defined as a combination of feeling anxious, self-conscious and reserved during social situations. Still, it is considered as a normal personality trait. However, social anxiety is a feeling of tremendous fear, embarrassment or humiliation in social and performance-based situations. This causes people to endure a high level of distress and would affect one to avoid such situations at all cost.
Symptoms, triggers and causes of social anxiety
Now that you know more about social anxiety let me list out some common symptoms to help in identifying whether you or someone around you has social anxiety. Once again, according to verywellmind, some physical symptoms include blushing, chills, trembling, shaky voice, fast heartbeat, limbs going numb, shortness of breath;. In contrast, some mental symptoms are intense processes of worrying before an upcoming social situation. For example, how you would assume everyone is judging you, thinking that others will notice that you look anxious and worrying about possibly embarrassing yourself.
Suppose you or someone you know has the symptoms of social anxiety. In that case, an important note to know is the triggers of social anxiety. According to Social Anxiety Association, people with social anxiety experience distress in situations such as being teased, being the centre of attention, being watched or observed, public speaking, eye contact, meeting people of authority and many more depending from person to person.
You may be curious about the causes of social anxiety, but there is no exact answer to it. Though verywellmind states in their article that it is believed to be a combination of genetic factors, environmental factors, and societal factors like cultural influences and brain structure factors.
Experience in dealing with social anxiety
As someone who has social anxiety, I can confirm that it really is a dreadful disorder to face on a day-to-day basis. One of the worst things for me to deal with is the physical symptoms where it triggers my social anxiety during certain social situations.
My heart would feel like it's going to jump out of my chest as I hyperventilate while my limbs turn cold and numb. Not only that, but I also get chills right down to my spine, and my legs turn jelly where I can barely walk nor stand. Besides the horrible physical symptoms, my mental health isn't great either. The negative thoughts I have assumed that everyone is going to judge me in whatever I do. I will start breaking down in tears of how afraid I am. This is how bad social anxiety can be, so do not ever underestimate what someone with social anxiety is going through.
How to cope with social anxiety
It is indeed a challenging process trying to cope with social anxiety, but one of the few ways I tried that might help is to control your breathing. According to HelpGuide, when you are anxious, you start hyperventilating, so take in deep breathes to help calm your heartbeat and nerves down. Inhale through your nostrils slowly, hold your breath for about 3 seconds and exhale through your mouth while pushing out as much air as you can. Besides that, talking to someone helps because it distracts you from your negative thoughts. You may feel like not talking to anyone since you're panicking but try. Try to reach out and text someone (especially since we're still in a pandemic. Stay at home, people!). You never know how it could help you out. I always do this, and it does help in distracting me and makes me feel at ease. And while you may have other ways to cope with your social anxiety, there is no harm in considering help from professional psychiatrists!
How to help someone with social anxiety
If you know someone with social anxiety, bear with them and never tell them things like "stop being dramatic", "it's all in your head". Not only are you not helping, but you are making it worse for them. Also, always be there for them. Yes, do give them the space they need but let them know that you are there for them by giving them comforting words on how they can get through it. Furthermore, do not ever abandon them or force them to face it when they clearly are not ready for it. It's the same situation where you do not leave someone with a broken leg to walk alone, and you do not rush them to walk faster when they are clearly not healed yet.
With all that has been said, if you are experiencing social anxiety, do not be afraid to reach out for help from your family and friends! Even if they do not understand what you are facing, I'm sure there will be at least one person who will be there for you. And to those who do not have social anxiety, please always be there for people who have it and help them get through it one step at a time.
By Haydee Hee