Updated: Jul 26
I wonder how many of us were aware of the term #socialanxiety before the whole Sumer Walker fiasco last November. The young lady who is a gifted singer, won an award at the Soul Train Awards and very timidly accepted her award. When it came that she she is one of one the 7% of Americans that suffer from #SocialAnxietyDisorder, she was made fun of and judge harshly by the public. It wasn't until Walker cleared the air during an Instagram live video did things calm down and a light was shined on the crippling fear that many face on a daily basis.
What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety disorder or social phobia
Is a type of anxiety disorder that cause extreme fear in social settings.
Those that struggle with this disorder have trouble speaking to people, meeting new people and do their best to avoid social situations. Fear of being judged is another side effect of social anxiety. Those that struggle with social anxiety may know the fear is irrational, but are helpless to do anything about it.
What Are the Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder?
Excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations
Intense worry for days, weeks and months before an event
Extreme fear of being watched or judged
Fear that you will embarrass or humiliate themselves
Fear that others will notice you're nervous
Shortness of breath
Upset stomach, nausea
Trembling or shaking
Racing heart or tightness in chest
Sweating or hot flashes
Feeling dizzy or faint
Avoiding social situations to the point it disrupts your life
Staying quite or hiding in order to escape notice
Concerned about being embarrassed in front of others
A need to bring a friend along for comfort
Drinking/doing drugs to relax before a social situation
Knowledge is power and if you how social anxiety effects you, you can learn coping skills to help you get past the anxiety. Keep reading for ways to overcome it and the different treatments available!
6 Tips to Overcome Social Anxiety
Most of the fears that social anxiety puts in our in our head can be tempered with the following techniques.
Challenge negative thoughts
Turn your focus on what's gong on around you, not yourself
Practice deep breathing when you feel anxious
Face your fears, rather than avoid them
Seek out supportive environments (take classes, volunteer, join clubs, etc)
Make some lifestyle changes (nutrition, exercise, healthier habits)
If you gave these steps and other forms of self-help a try and they haven't helped, it may be time to seek professional help.
How is Social Anxiety Treated?
There are 2 types of #treatment for social anxiety disorder: medication and therapy.
Medications are used to help control or ease symptoms of social anxiety, not cure it. Combined with therapy and self-help techniques, medication can help address the root cause of social anxiety. Here is a list of the different types of medication offered to help treat social anxiety, to learn about each medication specifically, click on the links provided.
The therapy best used to treat social anxiety disorder is cognitive-based therapy, or CBT. the purpose of CBT is to get you to see what you think affects how you feel and your feelings lead to your behaviors (sounds like Yoda talking). If you can change the way you think about being in social situations, you will feel and function better. VeryWellMind.com, lists the types of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Techniques, if you are interested in learning about each, please click the link provided.
Social Skills Training
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Remember, there is nothing wrong with getting professional help and or taking medication to help you get better. If your therapist recommends it and you still have reservations communicate that to them so they can help you process why or look into other treatments.
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My Experience with Anxiety
Can you believe that I am a teacher? Yes, I stand in front of 20 some odd 7th graders and teach them all about Ancient History - I love it! However, you should see me before going out with friends, it's a difficult and daunting task.
I know what it's like to agree to go to a social event and be scared to death that I'm going to embarrass myself. I've agonized over outfits to wear because I wanted to make sure I looked good in my clothes dispute my weight gain. I overthink if I've pissed off my friend because they didn't responded to my text within a reasonable time. Often times I obsess over if my friends think I'm a horrible person because I don't call them every week like I want to but don't because I'm afraid I'll get on their nerves and they won't want to be my friend anymore. I could go on and on, but yeah, I get it.
I often say that having a mental illness is a constant merry go round of bullshit and there are times you can't get off. The frustration of wanting to be this person confident person, but being so insecure (despite the fact that you have friends and people tell you how awesome you are) that you shrink yourself because you're afraid of judgment and embarrassing yourself. I often wonder how many opportunities I have missed out on because I couldn't get over THIS - and most times these fears and insecurities are just our minds playing trick on us.
About 2 years ago, I was invited to my good friends 40th birthday party. We were to meet her at a restaurant downtown, have dinner, hangout and then head back to the hotel where we would sleep over and have brunch the next day.... CUE THE PANIC.... My anxiety was so bad, I thought of not going. Let me list the reasons why
I was afraid I wouldn't fit in because they thought I was weird
I was afraid because I wouldn't know what to say to the and when I get nervous I stumble over my words
Although I have an extensive wardrobe, I was afraid of what to wear because I was afraid they would judge my clothes
They were her friends, what if they didn't want me there (I was invited by her friend)
Within 2 hours of meeting each other, ALL of us were having a blast! We laughed, talked cried and had sooooooooooooo much. I'm not going to sit here and tell you all the ways I've conquered social anxiety, because I haven't. I still deal with it, I still get extremely nervous when I have to speak in front of people I don't know or go out to social events. The fears, insecurities and doubts still play in my mind so I'm right there with you!
In the End...
How can WE get past this and get better? Let's take the time to go back and re read this blog. Put into practice what we read, hear and see about making improvements to our mental health. When those negative thoughts come into our head, let's do out best to dip into our arsenal of positive affirmations to replace the thought. We can face our fears head on with the coping skills our therapist taught us and take our meds everyday as scheduled. Lastly, we can be patient with ourselves knowing that our healing journey will take time, but if we continue to put one foot in front of the other we know we're making progress.
I believe in you Brown Girl, you got this and you are NOT alone!
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*I am not a licensed therapist. This post does not serve as a form of therapy or diagnosis. If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 911 or your doctor.