Overcoming social anxiety is a process that takes time and commitment, often beginning in the early ages of childhood and adolescence. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) affects 15 million American adults and is prevalent in an estimated 9.1% of adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18. Most children experience an onset of SAD between the ages of eight and 15, and it can be triggered by a traumatic experience or emerge from a natural tendency of shyness.
Social anxiety manifests in different ways depending on the person, but some symptoms include difficulty speaking in stressful situations, fear of being judged by others, and physical symptoms such as nausea or excessive sweating. SAD is a serious condition that can have detrimental effects on your development and daily life if not properly treated.
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is a type of anxiety that causes extreme self-consciousness in the presence of others. A person with SAD may have a persistent, intense, or chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and of doing things that will embarrass or humiliate themselves or their families. This fear can be so extreme that it causes severe anxiety, which results in physical symptoms of panic:
- Hot flashes
- Excessive sweating
- Stomach pain
- Weakness or fatigue
- Increases heart rate
How Does Social Anxiety Affect Children?
Children with SAD may feel very withdrawn socially and often do not engage with others outside of their family or closest friends. Other children may have social anxiety in specific settings, such as school or after-school activities, but are comfortable participating in these events when they are able to prepare themselves ahead of time. If these symptoms are not addressed while growing up, they can continue to affect adults later in life.
Tips for Coping with Social Anxiety as an Adult
Living with social anxiety as an adult can prevent you from living your life. Rather than pursuing your interests, you may avoid many situations that other people consider “normal.” Avoiding social situations tends to negatively impact your personal relationships and can also lead to low self-esteem, negative thoughts, depression, and sensitivity to criticism. On top of these unfavorable feelings, your social skills are not improving because you are never in situations to do so. Alternatively, adults with social anxiety who engage in social situations unprepared may experience extreme symptoms thus reinforcing and ultimately worsening their social anxiety disorder.a
The most important thing you can do as an adult is to put in the hard work and effort to learn more about your social anxiety through online forums, books, and directly from clinicians.
Here are some tips that you can try to combat your social anxiety.
Role-play different social situations with people you’re comfortable with in order to prepare yourself for common interactions. You can anticipate what will happen, where, how people may respond, and what to do in the situation.
Practice Small Talk
Practice small talk in laidback settings with family members, friends, or even strangers, such as the cashier at the grocery store.
Engage in Relaxation Strategies
Teach yourself how to take deep, slow breaths in order to calm yourself down during a panic attack. You can practice this at home when not in a social setting, like during meal times. Drawing and counting are other coping techniques that may be effective for you.
Promote Cognitive Reframing
Teach yourself to avoid getting caught up in other people’s behaviors and comments. SAD sufferers tend to get very wrapped up in what everyone around them is doing and saying, which can make it harder for you to remain calm.
Focus on Progress
Overcoming SAD will not happen overnight. Remember that recovery happens one step at a time and mistakes are a natural part of the recovery process.
Seek Professional Help
If you feel that you may be suffering from SAD, the first thing you should do is schedule an appointment with a doctor. Your doctor will be able to perform some tests to rule out other possible medical conditions that may have similar symptoms, then refer your family to a therapist who specializes in treating people with SAD. A therapist will be able to help teach you how to deal with anxiety and control the fears of being judged by others.
Contact Olympian Research Clinic
At Olympian Research Clinic, we conduct clinical research studies to help adults overcome illnesses like SAD that can affect your daily life. Contact Olympian Research Clinic today to learn more about our current enrolling studies and the benefits of participating!